I moved into a new flat recently. It had two fire alarms but one was hanging open and missing the battery. Before going to bed on that first night, I replaced the power source to make it functional again.
Two hours later, I was awoken by one strident blast. And then another ten minutes after that. On the third time, I got out of bed and used the ladder to disable the alarm.
It was a good two weeks before I got around to replacing the faulty device. In my defence, I did still have one working alarm in that time but, when I saw this report about how almost half the people who died in fires in 2010 were in buildings that had a working smoke alarm which had been disabled for some reason, I was reminded of my own behaviour.
It is too easy to remove the battery of a beeping smoke alarm and then forget to get it fixed. It is even easier to just forget to check the thing works on a regular basis.
Another interesting fact offered a cautionary note – 40% of deaths also had an alcohol or drug connection where people were too deeply asleep to hear an alarm immediately and by the time they became aware, the fire had blocked off the escape route.
The facts are that all smoke alarms and fire alarms should be regularly tested and maintained to prevent faults or unnecessary nocturnal beeping.
But general household safety should also be observed – close doors, turn off appliances and don’t overload plugs.
Whatever the size of your accommodation, plan an escape route so that if the worst should happen, you can still get to safety.