Fire Alarms: False or Not, Be Prepared
Our building’s fire alarms were triggered twice in the past 24 hours. The first one occurred at 1am and the last one at 2:40pm today. And of course, during both times, my kids were sleeping! There was a high-pitched noise blaring everywhere in my home as well as the common areas of our building. This isn’t a rare occurrence, unfortunately, as the alarm is triggered 3-5 times a year, though mostly false alarms. In my 10+ years of living in my building, only once was it a legitimate fire, which was put out before LAFD responded.
Once an alarm is triggered for non-testing purposes, only the LAFD (in our case from Playa Vista Station 67) can deactivate the alarm. According to the LAFD website, response time is just above 4 minutes. But fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out. It’s imperative that we should treat EVERY fire alarm as a real emergency.
Here’s what you can do to ensure you are fire safe in your home:
Check that they work! I check mine every first of the month. I just replaced the entire system actually since it is recommended to do so every 10 years. Over time, dust gathers inside smoke detectors, desensitizing them so you should be sure you have some “fresh” ones. Old ones may work during a test but may not detect actual smoke particles fast enough during an actual fire if they’re too old.
You should have at least one inside your house. I have two small 5lb fire extinguishers and placed one in the kitchen and the other upstairs in the master bathroom. Choose one that is rated Class A B C meaning, they protect against most home fires (flammable liquid, electrical, and ordinary combustibles). Materials are important. Only use extinguishers that are made with metal components. You don’t want to risk using plastic valves and handles that can get damaged during use. Also, make sure the extinguishers you choose are rechargeable. After 5 years, you can have them serviced and recharged instead of purchasing new ones.
Since I live in a multi-floor unit, I also have an emergency escape ladder. They are available for 2-story to 6-story structures. Whatever you do, do not get the single use versions. You will want to test these out with your home and have your family practice going down the ladder. So when the time comes, you’ll be familiar with how to use it safely.
Probably not super crucial to have Safety Earmuffs but with the high number of false alarms or even scheduled testing days, we use them quite a lot. I keep them in an accessible place so I can find them quickly. I have 4 on hand for every member of our family. They are adjustable in size and fit my 2 and 4 year old as well as my wife and I so they can grow with my kids. I have doggy earmuffs for our puppy too as the alarms can do more damage to their ears than ours. You can still hear the alarm with the earmuffs on but these keep the sound somewhat bearable.
Have a Plan
Develop, discuss, and practice an emergency action plan with everyone in your home. Include details for pets. Program phones with emergency numbers. Know two ways out of each room in your house and building, and have a predesignated meeting place.
The key is to be aware of fire safety, and to make sure you and your family get out alive and unhurt.