Smoke / Carbon Monoxide Alarm Maintenance Program


In 1999, Fire Marshal Timothy Smith submitted for, and subsequently was awarded a grant through a local home improvement center for battery-operated smoke alarms.  From that, the Town of Orange Fire Marshal's Office Smoke Detector Installation program was born.  The goal of the program was to provide fire protection in as many houses as possible to help ensure the safety of our residents.  In just 2 short years, over 2000 smoke alarms were either provided to homeowners, or provided AND installed by the Fire Marshal's Office staff absolutely FREE OF CHARGE!  Sadly, the program came to a brief end when we ran out of stock of smoke alarms.  Even then, homeowners were encouraged to call if they needed help replacing the batteries in their alarms, which is a service we still provide today!

Years later, a federal grant was applied for and we were back in the smoke detector installation business!  Again, the alarms didn't sit on the shelves at the firehouse long!  In addition to smoke alarms, the Fire Marshal's Office also received carbon monoxide alarms.  While we have run out of smoke alarms again, we still have plenty of carbon monoxide detectors available and would love for them to be in your house!  Just call our office at (203) 891-4711 and make an appointment to come pick up your alarms if you'd like to install them yourself, or to have one of our department staff members come out an installed them for you for FREE FREE FREE!

Why are Smoke Detectors Important?

Smoke detectors were designed to notify the occupant(s) of a building that there was a fire in the building, especially when sleeping.  Smoke alarms are designed to go off when smoke enters the detector and emit a loud beeping sound, and in some cases illuminate a small light to notify those occupants who may be hearing impaired.  Having working smoke detectors more than double the likelihood of surviving a fire when you respond to the alarm.  They are designed to go off when the fire is small, and only light smoke is present.

Now, I know people argue that "my alarm always goes off and it's a false alarm!".  There are two ways to prevent false alarms:

1.  Make sure your alarms are installed in the correct locations.

2.  Maintaining your alarms are essential to proper function! 

What to do if your Smoke Alarm Sounds

First, make sure everyone in your house is safe.  Call 9-1-1 to report any emergency.  If you know it's an accidental activation from smoke from cooking, or steam from the shower, wave something in front of the alarm to get it to stop from alarming.  DO NOT REMOVE THE ALARM OR THE BATTERY!  You may forget to return it working condition!

Installing Smoke Alarms

Before you break out the ladder and screw driver, read the instructions that came with your alarm!  Sorry guys, gotta do it this time!  Some of the common rules for the installation of smoke alarms are:

1.  Install smoke alarms on the ceiling whenever possible.  Sometimes, installation on a wall is required due to the configuration or type of ceiling.

2.  When installing smoke alarms, stay clear from air handling ducts, ceiling fans, and "dead spaces" too close to the walls.  All three areas could prevent the smoke alarm from going off!

3.  Install your smoke alarms in all the right places!  They include, in every sleeping area, common hallways outside of sleeping rooms, dens, living rooms, basements, and at least one alarm on every level of the home.  Sleeping areas include not just bedrooms, but any room with a futon, pull-out couch, or any other room that may be used for temporary sleeping quarters.  It's worth it, trust me!  Where NOT to install smoke alarms include in the kitchen, in the bathroom or just outside in the hallway, in the attic and in the garage.  Those areas are most likely to produce a false alarm due to smoke from cooking, steam from a shower, exhaust from a lawnmower or other small equipment being started, or from spiders making your smoke alarm their home!

4.  Once you've installed your smoke alarm, test it to make sure it works!

Why are Carbon Monoxide Detectors Important?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a byproduct of incomplete combustion.  Whether you heat your home with oil, gas, propane, or even wood-burning appliances, you very well could have carbon monoxide in your home.  While having small amounts is normal, the only way to tell if you have elevated levels of CO is through detection.  Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can't be seen or detected by human senses.  Having elevated levels of CO in your home could lead to illness or worse!

Elevated levels of CO can be caused by heating equipment not running efficiently, improperly installed wood-burning appliances or being used adverse to the manufacturer's instructions, or blocked or clogged exhaust piping.  It is important to have your heating system serviced and cleaned at least annually.

What to do if your Carbon Monoxide Alarms Sound

This one is simple.  Call 9-1-1 and get you and your family outside!  Because CO is colorless and odorless, without the use of meters, you can't be too sure that it's a false alarm.  The meters that the fire department uses is much more sensitive than the devices you have in your home.  Within just a few minutes, we can tell you if it was a false alarm or if you have a true emergency!

Installing Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Again, while it may seem simple enough, you REALLY need to follow the installation instructions that came with your carbon monoxide alarm.  Some of the common rules for the installation of CO alarms include:

1.  The location for the installation of your CO alarm will vary, depending on the type you have.  Some battery-operated alarms are wall-mounted while others are ceiling-mounted.  Plug-in alarms will be plugged into any outlet that is not blocked by furniture or fixtures.  You want the alarm to be able to "breath".  If you have plug-in CO alarms, make sure they have a battery backup system for protection if/when the power goes out in your home.

2.  There should be at least one (1) carbon monoxide alarm on every level of the home.  When installing one in your basement, be sure to stay at least ten (10) feet from any heating system to help prevent false alarms.  When starting your furnace for the first time each fall, you may experience a delayed ignition, which may cause a small puff of exhaust.  Stay the same distance from wood-burning or pellet stoves.

3.  Once you've installed your carbon monoxide alarm, test it to make sure it works!

Maintaining your Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Once you have your safety devices installed, they must be maintained to ensure they work properly!  Follow these simple rules:

1.  Test your alarms once a month.  All smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms have a test button, but each alarm tests differently.  Be sure to read the owner's manual as to what the detector sounds like when it going into alarm, versus when it's trying to tell you it needs something, and/or when you are testing it.

2.  Change your batteries TWICE a year!  Don't wait for the "chirp".  If you hear an occasional beep or "chirp", it means the battery is low and needs to be replaced.  But it also means that, for a while, there was a good chance that you'd either get a false alarm or it wouldn't alarm if there was smoke detected!  The batteries after 6 months are good to be used in something else, like your television remote, kid's games, or other home devices.  Remember, you want the freshest, newest batteries in your alarms to make sure they are working at top performance levels!

If you have a smoke detector and/or carbon monoxide alarm with a 10-year battery, make sure that the date in which the alarm was installed is written on the back of the alarm so you know when to replace it!

3.  Clean your detector with a feather duster or vacuum monthly.  No matter how clean you keep your house, dust and spiders always find their way into the sensor.

4.  Practice a home escape plan with your family!  Let everyone know what it sounds like when the alarm is activated, and teach them how to react.  

If you have smoke detectors or carbon monoxide alarms that need their batteries changed, but you can't get up to them to change them, give us a call!  We'd be happy to help you out!  If you have the batteries, we have the time to change them for you!  Just call (203) 891-4711, and someone will be out as soon as possible to help you!