October 28, 2021

Recognize the noise

Fire Prevention Week teaches the sound(s) of alarms

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Cortland Fire Capt. Will Fox takes the cap off a 10-year smoke alarm to check its expiration date. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors need to be checked monthly, and their batteries replaced twice a year. The inside of the alarm will record its date of manufacture, when it was installed and when it should be replaced

If you’ve ever left food in the oven too long, you’re probably familiar with the loud beeping of your smoke detector. There are more sounds to pay attention to that might save your life.

As part of National Fire Prevention Week, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York is teaching people the different sounds their home alarms make, and how they should respond.

“Our lives and our homes are filled with technologies that use all kinds of sounds to help us. Sometimes all the beeps and chirps can just become white noise,” said association President John Farrell. “It is important that all New Yorkers know the ‘sounds of fire safety’ and make the proper response when they hear them.”

Smoke alarms may not all sound exactly alike, but they’ll have three succinct beeps, while carbon monoxide alarms have four beeps. If your smoke alarm chirps once every 30 to 60 seconds, the batteries need replacing, but if it continues after that then you need a new alarm. Since 2019, all new alarms must be powered by a 10-year, sealed, non-removable battery.

A bed shaker or strobe-light alarm can help for people with hearing problems, the Firemen’s Association reports.

Cortland fire Capt. Will Fox encourages people to check their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every month and learn what they each sound like.

And don’t simply yank out the battery when they chirp to signal a dying battery. Replace them. Other people may think the sounds are just a defect and remove the batteries to quiet the alarm, reports the state’s Firemen’s Association. Not investigating the situation could invite serious risk.

The fire department responds to carbon monoxide alarms or natural gas leaks, medical situations and more, Fox said.

“Most people think ‘fire department,’ they think of the fire truck, and that we’re fire-only,” Fox said. “Yes, it’s a large part of what we are, because we’re the only ones who can help in that situation — there’s no ambulance coming to put water out on the fire — but there is so much more that we do.”

Dryden Fire Department Assistant Chief Dustin Brunner said residents can start preparing their homes for heating, too.

“Make sure your fireplaces, chimneys and heating systems are clean,” Brunner said. “If you have electric baseboard heaters, make sure there isn’t anything up against them because that’s a fire hazard.”

Brunner suggests vacuuming your baseboard heaters to remove any dust or lint that could be flammable. Furniture and curtains should be at least a foot away from baseboard heaters. He also suggests the entire family read the instructions for their fire extinguisher, and use Daylight Saving Time as a reminder to replace detectors’ batteries.

Families can also come up with an evacuation plan and a meeting place, Fox said.

Although no one wants to leave their things behind — especially pets — the first thing to do is get to safety and call 911, Brunner said.

“The quicker they get emergency responders there, the quicker we can get people and pets out,” Brunner said. “If they’re going to spend time in the house looking for things, that’s actually going to take time away from the whole system working. Plus, pets are pretty smart — most pets will be near the doors, so we can get to them easily.”

And shut the door on your way out of the room, Brunner said. “One of the biggest things we’ve learned this year is to shut the door — if a fire breaks out, it’s going to enter rooms as it spreads, so having that bedroom door shut gives us more time to save you.”