Where There’s Smoke …

By Cheryl Costa

My spouse and I live in a 55-plus apartment complex in Syracuse and we love it. Featured are friendly peer-aged neighbors who remember dial telephones, Woodstock and know what a GTO muscle car is.

The other day a smoke detector went off in a neighbor’s apartment. There was no fire and no smoke producing activity but we called 911. When a responding fireman examined the smoke detector, he pointed out that the smoke detector in question was manufactured in the early 2000s, about the time the complex was built. This made the smoke detector well over 10 years old.

The average person isn’t aware that smoke detectors actually do wear out and should be replaced every 10 years. Likewise, the smoke detectors with replaceable batteries need to have those batteries changed at least once per year. Most folks change the batteries at either the spring or fall time change.

Did you know that three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms?

We were concerned the complex management might only change the one malfunctioning and now-expired smoke detector or worse, ignore one individual elder reporting the problem.

Our tight network of elder neighbors organized. We went door to door and spread the word about the expired detectors.

En masse, we all individually submitted written maintenance requests. Needless to say, complex management couldn’t help but notice the overstuffed mailbox. They promptly ordered a large shipment of enough new smoke detectors to replace the three in each apartment in the entire complex.

It was a happy ending to a potentially dangerous situation.

But let’s take a minute and explore a different situation. Think about this for a moment. Have you ever visited a friend or neighbor and noticed a smoke detector with its cover off with the battery connection hanging down with no battery? I’d bet we’ve all seen it but didn’t say anything.

When was the last time you were visiting a relative with kids and seen plastic fitting on the ceiling for a smoke detector but no smoke detector?

If you care about these people, you need to say something to prod them to fix it.

What about your own dwelling? How old is your dwelling’s smoke detector? Is it five, 10, 15 years or older? If you can’t remember, get somebody to check the detector for its age. Have them take the detector down and look at the back of it; the date of manufacture is printed on the back.

Warning: Before you consider climbing a ladder and risk falling, get somebody younger to inspect that smoke detector age or change that battery for you.

Did you know that an accidently dropped cigarette or a frayed electrical cord can start a fire that can get out of control in less than two minutes? A working smoke detector can get your attention quickly and give you that lifesaving precious few moments to get up and get out before the situation gets out of control.

Yes I said, “Get up and get out!” Do not even think about trying to put that fire out by yourself!

The average person doesn’t have the tools or the training to know what must be done. Trying to fight a room fire with a 2-pound fire extinguisher isn’t going to cut it. It requires firefighting training, skill and the right equipment. Just get the heck out of there, call 911 and let the professionals deal with it.