Age-ism, Sometimes We Must Discriminate

It seems I got myself fired up in writing the emergency evacuation plan post the other night :-). I’ve been wondering about the lifespan of smoke detectors as I stare at the ones that came with my home. The house was built in 1998. We, of course, do the tests and change the batteries when they start yelping at us. But I got curious concerning the age of them. Truth is I’ve been eyeballing those things for a while, just wondering “do you still work, really work?” So…a little bit of research later and guess who was off to get new smoke detectors? Yep. Replaced them all. And weirdly enough, it felt good! I actually feel better.  

Did you know that smoke detectors have a shelf-life? They actually lose about 3% of their reliability every year after their manufacture date. Years ago, not much research had been done on the lifespan of smoke detectors, but since that time they have actually started putting expiration dates on the back of the detectors. Some companies actually put the manufacture date and the package and instructions state “smoke detectors should be changed every 10 years.”

So, how old are your smoke detectors? Did you buy your home new? If so, is it more than 10 years old? Then you need new ones. Did you buy an existing home? If so, unless you have checked or changed them already, you don’t really know the age of your smoke detectors.

AND, after installing new smoke detectors, I was on a roll. After that, I was just pumped! I rounded up the kids and told them it was family meeting time. (At this point they freaked because they thought they were in trouble 🙂 ) I had them sit down and listen while I tested the new smoke detector. I then walked them through the house and showed them all of the detectors. I then explained to them individually what they are for, how they work, and most importantly, what their screaming means. My youngest is just three, so he’s operating under his own understanding, but the important thing is I’m starting to get him familiar with the seriousness of the topic. We then had a drill! I had the kiddos lie in their beds with their lights off. I set the scene…”ok, its night-time. It’s dark outside and in your room. Mama and Daddy and brother are sleeping too. Then you hear…BEEEEEEEEEEEP!!!!!” And they popped up and I was hollering “get out, get out, get out babies, get out of the house.” They were of course thrilled and ran outside. Then I reviewed with them, “Now where do you go, where do you go to wait for help?” They both thought a minute (back to our talks) and my oldest says, “The front of the clubhouse.” So, we took off and all made it to the clubhouse front door.” Then we sat down and discussed what they should do once they get there. What happens if Mama and Daddy never show up? And in the end, I told them how proud I was of them for being “prepared” with me. We had a group hug and then ran back to the house.

And my husband and I talked things over as well. Even with our replacement smoke detectors, do we think we have enough? Are we going to consider putting individual detectors in each child’s room to supplement the one in the hall. When can we afford to purchase the self recordable versions so that we can put our own voice/message into the alert signal? What message will we record when we get those? Who is going to get the go kit and who is going to get the kids? This last issue we have of course discussed, but quite honestly it can’t hurt for us to review our plans and make sure we have thought things through correctly.

 So maybe you have been operating under the guise of preparedness because you do your tests every 6 months and you change the batteries in your smoke detectors right on time. But maybe that is all for not because your smoke detectors have actually lived a long and illustrious smoke detector life. Maybe it is time to lay them to rest. Send them to their maker and get new ones…lest you have to meet yours. Good night, sleep tight.


2 responses to “Age-ism, Sometimes We Must Discriminate

  • JoeCOOP

    This is a great post! Thanks for the extra work on the shelf life issue, which is important news to me. I am checking ours now.

    We do have some that have a tone alarm with a woman’s voice warning recorded. They are near the kids room since the beeping sounded like their alarm clocks which they snoozed and did not get up for. Both the old and new types we verified with a 2:00 AM live testing of the alarms. The cats were the only things that stirred in our house to the old alarms but the kids did respond to the voice. Afraid it was their mother no doubt, coming to kick them out of bed for being late for school.

  • keepbuilder

    I feel the same way. I think if I were to record the message for my youngest, he would definately be more apt to respond; however, for my oldest it would really need to be my husband. Question is will the three (one in the hall, the one with my voice for the youngest, and the one with my husband’s voice for my olderst) be too much and just make it chaos? I won;t really know until we buy and try! I’ll let everyone know as soon as I pull it all off.

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