A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac


September 29, 2012
Emilie Phillips

One of our fire alarms went off last night. Following current code, our house has one fire alarm for every room except the bathroom. And, they are all wired together, so whenever one goes off, there is a brief pause and then the entire house starts screeching.


Well, last night I heard one of them do the first few beeps and then shut up. I was groggy enough that I just fell back asleep without understanding what made the noise.


The next time it got in the initial beeps, one round of whole house screeching, and then fell silent. That woke us up. Tyson got up and stumbled around the house looking for the problem. Unfortunately we had no real idea which alarm tripped. Some of the alarms are only smoke alarms, some also carbon monoxide, and some heat sensitive. With no real idea what the issue was, Tyson gave up and came back to bed. I double checked the stove really was off and turned up the ventilator to extract any kitchen fumes.


Some time later it woke us up again, but just beeped before going silent. This time I decided to investigate. My guess was that the initial beeps were coming from the great room since they were fairly loud, but not loud enough to be in the bedroom. At this point, my best guess was some dust or a bug had gotten into one of the detectors. So I hauled out the big ladder, hand vacuum, and sound dampening aviation ear muffs in case it went off while I was tinkering with it.


I found some dust and a dead bug behind the alarm, but that did not look convincing. After fully neutralizing the alarm, I handed it to Tyson whereupon he discovered instructions on the back listing particular light blink codes that indicated it had tripped in the past for either smoke or carbon monoxide. Well, I had already pulled the battery on that one, but I think it might not have been blinking. I checked all the others in the house. Each type had its own blink codes, so I had to pull them down to read the instructions too. The net result was the two nearest the wood stove were complaining of smoke and all the others were happy. Odds are we never reset the alarms near the stove since the couple accidental smokings last winter, it was not clear if we had found a real culprit. So we reset everything and went to bed figuring next time it tripped we could determine the responsible party. And, since the only alarms were smoke, I didn’t have to worry about odorless carbon monoxide.


Well, they never tripped again. I guess whatever bug or dust was tap dancing on the sensor decided to move on. Needless to say, we slept in. Now I am just worried that since we never found the actual problem, we’ll be woken up some other night again.