Fire Prevention Week :: Tips from a Former Firefighter and Mom

Fire Prevention Week comes every October, this year falling on October 8 – 14. My kids are grown or in high school and coloring book reminders no longer come home with them in fall. There are other reminders, though, not quite as pleasant as the brightly colored handouts with cute black and white dalmatians on them.

cartoon-extinguisherMy fire prevention reminder came on a Sunday afternoon when my daughters and I returned from church. Of course, my husband was off somewhere else road racing or something leaving us on our own to deal with the annoying chirp of one of 11 hard wired smoke detectors complaining that a battery needed to be changed.

Only, it wasn’t just one smoke detector. Apparently, two smoke detectors were complaining. And, after spending an hour identifying which two, replacing their batteries, and finding that not only were they still chirping, but now were setting off every detector in the house every 10 minutes, we were all crabby and annoyed. We figured the batteries in the drawer were old. Who knew how long they had been in there? Off to the store we went to buy a 12 pack of 9-volt batteries for our hard wired smoke detectors. Only batteries come in 8 packs, so we bought two. We replaced every battery in the frickin’ house. It was quiet for about 30 seconds and they all went off again, then stopped, then, somewhere, one started chirping, again.

You see, smoke detectors have an expiration date. It might not be on the actual detector, although the date of manufacturing will be. Consumer Reports have found that smoke detectors have a life expectancy of about 10 years.  

Ours were 12 years old and now we had to find which two were causing the high pitched, insanity causing, nausea inducing siren in our home. Three hours after returning from church, batteries had been changed, and two detectors had been pulled to stop the noise insanity. It was time to order brand new detectors for the house without delay. The National Fire Protection Association reports that 3 of 5 fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors and the cause of malfunction may not always be absent or dead batteries. There are other strategies for keeping your family safe, too.

E.D.I.T.H. is one of many plans you can use to keep your family safe in the event of a fire.

E.D.I.T.H. is an easy way of saying “Exit Drills In The Home.” Meet with your family and review the basic safety points in the event you do have a fire:fire-prevention-tips

  • Get Low & Go
  • Feel doors for heat/keep closed if warm & move to windows
  • Make noise at the window to be noticed
  • Get Out & Stay Out if you can open the door
  • Family Meeting place outside the home

Many years ago, we set off our smoke detectors shortly after our children went to bed. The lights were off upstairs and my husband and I listened carefully outside of their bedroom. Their conversation went like this:

“Do you think this is real?”  
“I think it is mom and dad messing with us.”  
“What if it IS real?”  
“We should probably get out.”  

We heard them both drop to the floor. There was no smoke, so the get low and go made us smile. Better safe than sorry, we guessed. We heard scratching on the other side of the door. Yay!  They were checking for heat. We backed away in the dark and watched as our daughters crawled down the hall, crawled backward down the stairs, and exited the front door. We met them at the mailbox, our meeting place to count family members.


The U.S. Fire Administration tracks fire deaths and reports a ten-year trend of reduction of almost 25%.  This reflects the work of fire departments’ increased fire safety in the United States through public education programs.  Despite this work, 3428 people died in 2014 due to fire.  Working smoke detectors and regular review of fire safety are key to keeping your family safe.

As a family, don’t miss Fire Prevention & Safety Week. Remember to change your batteries when the clocks change, replace your smoke detectors at least every 10 years, and review fire safety with your family.  

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