The night I almost killed the smoke detectors

smoke detector-home depot

Kidde smoke detector courtesy of Home Depot

Something was pinging at 1:30 a.m. Yes, I said a.m.

Smoke detectors pick the dumbest time to die.

It pinged every 20 seconds from the alarm in my bedroom. It was about 15 feet from my formerly sleeping body. It woke me from a sound sleep in the middle of my deep REM. (I’m not sure what that means but it sounds scientific.)

My first thought was that there was a fire but the alarm would be loud and annoying and gorgeous men would be climbing in my window to save me. (I’m a sucker for a man in uniform!)

At first I tried to ignore it. I knew it wasn’t the battery because the beloved husband had checked them the week before. It was something wonky.

Ping! You can’t sleep with something pinging.

I looked over and the beloved husband was snoring like a drunken sailor on shore leave. He has trouble sleeping so I debated whether I should wake him up or let him sleep until the pinging did its job on him.

Another ping. No movement from the drunken sailor.

I woke him up. Misery loves company and he may have a clue on how to stop it from tormenting me.

He rolled out of bed and took the battery out. It kept on pinging. Our alarms are all wired together electrically.

He turned off the circuit breaker. It kept on pinging.

I am lying in my nice warm bed while all this was going on. Having some level of guilt (very low level) I said in a very soft hard-to-hear voice, “Do you want me to help you?” He either didn’t hear me at all or ignored me.

Either way I was golden. I hate running around at 2 a.m. (yes, it was 2 a.m. now) when I really should be sleeping.

He pulled out the manual. You know how some people have English as a second language? The person who wrote this manual had English as a 27th language. Nothing was easy to understand.

It was missing a trouble-shoot section too. You know the one. “If your cake comes out of the oven lopsided, you live on the side of a mountain. Move to the bottom flat part and your cakes will be even.” That’s the kind of advice they give.

Sometimes the first thing they suggest you do is “make sure the device is turned on.”

Really? Most Americans only go to the manual after they have done everything their intuition and Mr. Google has suggested. First up is usually to turn the thing on.

Back to the problem – After research and trial and error, he pulled ALL the batteries out and put the circuit breaker back on.

It stopped pinging.

He crawled back to bed and before you know it he was snoring like that drunken sailor again.

However, I was lying in bed wondering if we were properly protected from a fire. I lived in houses for 30 years without any alarm system but now I was terrified. I couldn’t sleep.

It didn’t help that most of the cats were also snoring like drunken sailors.

Then I wondered how I would save four cats if there was a fire. You need a plan. We don’t have a plan. We are doomed.

I could grab two and the beloved husband could grab two but one of them would be hiding under the bed. How long would it take to coax her out? That also means we don’t rescue our wallets or pocketbooks or anything like that.

Not even extra underwear. No makeup for the photos taken as we exit the house with four cats and a gorgeous fire fighter. This is heady stuff to worry about at 3:30 a.m.

Around 5 a.m. I was exhausted and fell asleep only to wake up an hour later. The taste of worry was still in my mouth. Either that or the garlic from last night.

Ultimately we may change out all the alarms. I don’t want to go through this again and we are not sure which one is bad. Mr. Google also said they have a life span of ten years.

We have been in our brand new home for eleven years. We have replaced ALL the kitchen appliances along with the heat pump, humidifier and water heater. Now we will replace the fire alarms. I am convinced that you should move every 7 seven years to be safe.

44 thoughts on “The night I almost killed the smoke detectors

  1. Pingback: It’s time to change! | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

  2. Pingback: Another midnight crisis and still no emergency plans | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

  3. Thank you for the most enjoyable post. Been there myself. I’ve learned not to ask my spouse to get up – he has ripped one out of the ceiling to leave wires dangling. Like waking a monster!


  4. Very, very funny…My first thought was that there was a fire but the alarm would be loud and annoying and gorgeous men would be climbing in my window to save me. (I’m a sucker for a man in uniform!) Also the moving every seven years, to be safe. This should be a keeper…good enough for a magazine I think. Very visual.


  5. This is so funny!! (English as his 27th language, drunken sailor cats, ha ha ha!) I wonder – do you think fire alarms and light bulbs are in cahoots? They all seem to go “out” around the same time – not exactly – but close enough together to make us nuts!

    fun post! MJ


  6. This is a great story! Funny…except in the middle of the night. I have had them go off in the middle of the night, too, with the low battery, but I don’t remember having so much difficulty getting it to stop! Wow! I think your cats would find a way out, so you don’t have to worry about them. Your drunken sailor sleeper, now he might be a bigger problem. I like your thinking, though, on new appliances. I’m going to use the fire safety standard as a reason for some upgrades!


  7. Kate ~ you did a stellar job with this post. I can see you lying there, deciding whether to wake the drunken sailor, worrying about no protection, making the cat evacuation plan, etc.

    You should move. It’s time.


  8. This is so funny!
    I have been there and at that point it is only funny in retrospect. I remember when I was renting a room in a house with 4 other girls our smoke detector started dead battery beeping and we were all too short to reach it to take it down. So, two of us stood there confused and half asleep at 4 in the morning staring at it. It wasn’t until much later in the day, after I had gone to school, someone finally had the idea to get a chair and take it down (and buy a replacement battery).


  9. The smoke detectors in our house also drive me mad. One alarm goes off and triggers the others to join in. Then I can’t tell which one to respond to. Maddening at any hour – but especially in the wee hours of the night. What does it mean that they have to be “hard wired?”


  10. I hate those beeps! We have a detector that sounds off when we turn on one of our hall lights…only then. This loud voice shouts Evacuate, Evacuate…etc. Beeps, beeps and more Evacuation shouts…then the pronouncement there is no carbon monoxide detected. Gee, thanks! Our cat, Gibby, takes off the notice to evacuate very seriously…every time! She hasn’t figured out that the shouter is kidding around. Oh well, makes life exciting…at least it excites our guests!


  11. OMG this is so funny! I mean, at your expense, sure, but isn’t that even better? I am also relieved to hear that I am not the only one who wonders how we would get 4 stubborn cats out of the house in the event of an emergency; and if we manage to get them outside hold on to them so they don’t get away, while still gazing into the eyes of the gorgeous firefighter. Hmm.


  12. Always in the middle of the night! I once changed out two batteries before realizing it was the carbon monoxide monitor plugged into the wall. Whomever calibrates the alarms found the perfect pitch to make them so annoying that they cannot be ignored. Good luck!
    PS: a woman recently told me the firefighters would find her under bed…trying to get the cats. 🙂


  13. I’ve been through the same thing. Our alarms only go off for no reason when my husband is out of town, so I generally have to do all of the above by myself. Bottom line: we replaced all the inexpensive bottom-of-the-line hardwired ones that came with the house with new sophisticated modern ones that do what they’re supposed to do when they are supposed to. Good money, well spent. Much cheaper than moving house.


  14. There is nothing that drives me more insane than a beeping smoke detector. Why do the batteries always die at 2:00 a.m.?
    I’m with you, moving every 5-7 years before things start to break is a great idea. That’s what my parents did when I was growing up.


  15. You remind me of Erma Bombeck. I know you could write a book about each and everyone one of all those replacements. (I wonder if you ever tried replacing the beloved …. )


  16. “The Life of Riley” had a line for moments like yours, I believe it was “—”What a revoltin’ development this is!” When stuff like that happens in our household, we say “How rude” as if an inanimate object could change its behavior.
    So glad your sailor could fix the problem AND go back to sleep. Perhaps you had to take a nap that afternoon?


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