Smoke & Fire Alarms

Parent Q&A

False smoke alarms — help! Feb 15, 2021 (10 responses below)
Dangerously loud fire alarms in schools Oct 16, 2018 (3 responses below)
  • False smoke alarms — help!

    (10 replies)

    Has anyone dealt with ongoing nuisance/false smoke alarms? We live in an old Berkeley stucco split-level, and the alarms in the two back/upstairs bedrooms have been going off at random for weeks. There’s no pattern — sometimes they go off in the middle of the day when all the curtains have been open for hours; sometimes (more often) they go off in the middle of the night. They beep 1-5 times and then stop. It’s maddening, and wakes everybody up. So far we’ve tried moving the units further from the heat vents, replacing a unit, turning the heat down, turning the heat up, leaving a window open, running a dehumidifier. Nothing seems to work. If anyone has thoughts I’d really appreciate it! They’re photoelectric detectors.

    RE: False smoke alarms — help! ()

    Hi, since it’s heating season and many smoke alarms these days also detect carbon monoxide, I wonder if maybe they are detecting CO and you don’t know it? Just a few years ago people died here in Berkeley from CO poisoning from their heater. Please make sure that’s not the case here. If they are truly only smoke detectors and they are going off at random, I would get new ones of a different type and/or call the manufacturer.

    RE: False smoke alarms — help! ()

    This happened to me and the problem was dust.  I took the alarms down and apart and dusted thoroughly, and it stopped!  Good luck.

    RE: False smoke alarms — help! ()

    We have this problem.  It happens when the alarms reach the end of their useful life of ten years (but for certain brands can happen earlier, typically starting around year 8).  The most effective and safest way of dealing with this problem is to replace the alarm.  Note that if your alarms are hardwired or communicate with each other and if you cannot find the identical make and model —and there have been significant changes to alarm availability since some companies were acquired by competitors— you will have to replace ALL hardwired alarms with the same new model.  Until you can do that task it helps to minimize dust in the air and you may want to vacuum the alarms.  

  • Dangerously loud fire alarms in schools

    (3 replies)

    Does anyone have experience in getting schools to turn down the volume of their dangerously loud fire alarms?  I am looking for advice, literature, personal experience or professional expertise... anything that can help me motivate the school to turn down the alarm volume.  I don't want to have to turn this into a legal battle, I just want the alarms turned down.

    Background: My teen has chronic tinnitus (24 hour a day non-stop ringing in his ears caused by exposure to an explosion).   His tinnitus is exacerbated by loud noise which can also potentially cause more permanent damage to his hearing and permanently louder ringing.   The school tested the sound levels and subsequently admitted to me that the noise level is 35-45 db higher than required by law, but they have not turned them down.  Fire alarms continue to go off at the school for no reason (4x so far in two months which were not planned drills and not in response to fire or smoke) and my child comes home distraught with more intense ringing in his ears.  I resent having to send my child to a school where he is exposed to dangerous conditions.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    Easier solutions to simple problem. Please keep noise-cutting headphones inside his desk at all times. There are announcements before there’s a fire drill conducted in schools and staff has prior information. Inform them of your son’s requirement and am sure they’ll have him with his headphones before the alarm sets off. There are serious downsides to low volume fire alarms as there are kids with hearing problems also. These drills are in place for real emergencies, that can realistically occur anytime. 

    How about equipping him with earplugs or noise canceling headset for these occasions?  They would have to be kept handy to grab, which might take some planning or practice, but with tinnitus it seems helpful to carry earplugs in a pocket. I recommend “sleep leight” for comfort, searchable on amazon. You can still stay in conversation with the school; possibly the parent board could pursue the matter; and your child is protected in the meantime.

    I don't really know anything about fire alarms. But I have a couple of ideas to get things moving. One is to find out about the alarm and how to turn it down. It may simply be that no one has taken the time to read the manual. The other is to figure out who has the power to turn it down. It may be that you are talking to the principal when a side conversation with a maintenance person may be more productive. The third thing is to find other concerned parents. If there is a whole group of you putting it the pressure on, it may help. Good luck!