Smoke alarms — the concert you want to miss

smoke detector-home depotOne day last week at 2:15 a.m. the smoke alarms went off. All of them. There was no smoke or fire. Just one irate former sleeper and a groggy spouse. And four cats hiding under the beds. Our alarms only go off in the middle of the night. Here is what happened last time we went through this.

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) I said in a very soft hard-to-hear voice, “Do you want me to help you?” He either didn’t hear me 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.

Editor’s note: That was 3 years ago and we still have no idea how we will ever get the cats out in an emergency. I walked around last week and couldn’t find any of them. They were probably under the beds. It could take forever to get any one of them out.

Morgan: I am not coming out until the handsome fireman comes with treats.

65 thoughts on “Smoke alarms — the concert you want to miss

    • Our cats hide under the beds and it takes a lot to get them out. The noise was a loud alarm rather than the pinging for low battery. I thought we had a fire. I always worry that if there is a fire, I have no idea how we’ll save the cats. I can understand that dogs don’t do well with noise. I don’t either and I know what it is.

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  3. As much as the 1 am smoke alarm wake-ups suck, it’s good to know that you’re hearing them and listening for them. Thinking about your evacuation plan ahead of time will help you in many circumstances, not just a house fire. If you’re ever concerned, don’t hesitate to call the fire department, we are always happier to come out to a false alarm (yes, even at 1 am) than to an actual fire!

    On a funnier side note, my 3 y/o kept coming into our bedroom in the middle of the night saying there was a ghost in the house. After putting them back to bed for the fifth night in a row, I heard our smoke alarm give an audible warning: **BEEP BEEP** “Low Battery…Pillule Faible” (We’re in Canada, so it’s a bilingual smoke alarm). My 3 y/o looked up in fright and said “There it is daddy, that’s the ghost. It says ‘Low Battery’!”

    Needless to say, we keep a better eye on the batteries in our smoke alarms now…

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  4. Just found your blog and I am so concerned about your no makeup problem in the middle of the night. Obviously, you need to put on all makeup before you go to bed. Spray your face with some of that “keep the makeup on your face…no matter what” stuff like the makeup artists use. I suppose that the spray has a name. Wear an extremely adorable shorts/shirt ensemble to bed. Sleep with your purse. Don’t forget to smile for the cameras. Have catnip and tuna ready for the cats. Use a “teacher’s playground” loud whistle to rouse your husband. For goodness sake…like I said…smile!

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  5. Z always did a low fast running crouch when the alarms went off and she headed for the laundry room. I would have known where to find her but she was just one not four and I am not sure I could have gotten to her. She always squeezed behind something. We are two years over the life of our alarms according to your googling!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “The taste of worry” – oh how I understand (and I don’t eat garlic!). But I had to laugh as I read your post, having gone through a similar incident a month ago. Smoke alarms are developed to ONLY die in the middle of the night. Period.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kate, it’s a scary thought thinking of you guys scrambling to round up the cats during a fire, as no doubt, they’ll be scrambling too. And you’re so right about those fire alarms… they always seem to run out of battery power in the wee hours of the morning. Makes me wonder if it isn’t by design? You know: Get those folks used to jumping up out of a cold snore. After all, that’s what our fire alarms are for, to get you up at night because if they go off during the day you’re probably ALREADY up!

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  8. Sounds like you are intimately familiar with drunken sailors on shore leave… interesting!
    It’s too bad the firefighters/EMTs only respond to emergencies… I would love it if they would stop by for a cup of coffee for no reason!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We’ve experienced the smoke detectors going off in the night, but I think in our case we were negligent with keeping the batteries current. Your situation sounds much more perplexing. I can certainly understand your deep and honest concern for the “what ifs” pertaining to the safety of your cats. It’s one of those things you can’t prepare for, I’m sure, but keeping your equipment fully functioning gives you the best chances, and that’s what you’re doing. If your husband didn’t sleep like a drunken sailor the two of you could sleep in shifts, with an eye on safety. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. God, that sounds just like me at 3 AM. “What was that noise?” “What’s that smell?” “Home invasion: what’s my plan?”

    This is why I have dogs. Because my house is small, even if the dogs sleep through an intruder (possible, trust me), any intruder will trip over at least one of them.

    Maybe this will help you next time, though, even though it’s a sad story. If there’s a fire and you can’t get the cat out from under the bed, just leave all the windows and doors open and skedaddle. The cats will make it out, I promise. One of the saddest stories to come out of our annual Southern California fires was about a man who went back inside his burning house to save his beloved cat. He died.

    Days later, the cat — slightly singed, but mostly okay — turned up at a local animal shelter.

    Cats are amazing survivors. Humans with kindly hearts? Not so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hilarious! And I related to every sleepless worried moment. I used to fret in thunderstorms about how to get our 2 Goldens out in an evacuation. Peaches always hid in the closet so I joined her there and the heck with evacuating.😁

    Liked by 4 people

  12. We had several in the cottage, but they weren’t linked so they didn’t all go off together. However, a friend’s was pinging for about a year before he thought maybe he should check the alarm in the attic. Being a rather rotund gentleman, it was still pinging when we left in 2014.
    The one in the boat went off when the kettle boiled on the hob or I forgot to put a lid on the veg pan.
    The phantom beeping that disturbed Maggie will forever remain a mystery though.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. That was truly awesome. Made my day, and the rest of my week also. Those alarms drive me nuts since my hearing is askew. I have to walk around the house and stand, listening for the next beef from the low battery.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maybe it’s because we’re getting older but it’s getting hard to tell which one is the offender. In our recent experience it didn’t beep, it went off for close to 2 minutes which was unnerving.

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  14. Middle of the night alarms AND phone calls = ACK!!! In fact, anything that wakes me from a sound slumber is on my “To Be Avoided” list.

    I hope you never have to evacuate 4 cats in the middle of the night, Kate.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. You’ll have empathy from everyone on the subject of fire alarms. We just had a small electrical fire on the deck outside our bedroom. Despite the acrid smell of burning insulation, the fire alarms remained mute — no smoke. They ping only in the middle of the night.

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  16. Ray has a serious dislike of alarm beeps, and we just replaced all our smoke detectors (old ones were over 10 years old) however, we have always opted for the battery operated ones so all are independent of each other. Activating new units (and replacing batteries) has to be done in the back garden in order to keep Ray’s sanity. We decided that making the neighbors wonder why an alarm was going off in our back garden, was preferable to stressing Ray! He is so spoiled! 🙂

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  17. oh my that was THE adventure… this gadgets are made in hell… my father burnt sausages once and the beast screamed like a banshee… he tried to stop it with climbing on a chair while he placed his hand on the glowing hot oven…then he screamed with the smoke alarm…

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I’ve been through many a night with wonky smoke alarms playing their games. At least your husband was home to suffer with you. Our alarms choose to go off ONLY when my husband is traveling. Just me staring at the offending gadgets, wondering where I put the baseball bat. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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