All Things Real Estate: Battery replacement in fire and smoke alarms may save your life

All Things Real Estate: Battery replacement in fire and smoke alarms may save your life

Homeowners sometimes forget one of the most important life-saving preventative maintenance and a simple chore to do in their home or apartment to replace the batteries in the fire and smoke alarm.  This must be done on a yearly basis or as needed when a red light flashes or you hear a slight beeping sound.  If you are hardwired via your electrical current for your detectors, then you are in the most advantageous position for safety.

According to a February 2021 article by the National Fire Association with its 50,000 members, the following was found in a report it published about home fires:

1.) Smoke alarms were present in three-quarters (74 percent) of reported home fires in 2014–2018.

2.) Almost three out of five home fire deaths were caused by fires in properties with no smoke alarms (41 percent) or smoke alarms that failed to operate (16 percent).

3.) The risk of dying in reported home structure fires is 55 percent lower in homes with working smoke alarms than in homes with no alarms or none that worked.

4.) When present, hardwired smoke alarms operated in 94 percent of the fires considered large enough to trigger a smoke alarm. Battery-powered alarms operated 82 percent of the time. Power source issues were the most common factors when smoke alarms failed to operate.

Compared to reported home fires with no smoke alarms or automatic extinguishing systems (AES) present, the death rate per 1,000 reported fires was as follows:

  • 35 percent lower when battery-powered smoke alarms were present, but AES was not
  • 51 percent lower when smoke alarms with any power source were present but AES was not
  • 69 percent lower when hardwired smoke alarms were present but AES was not
  • 91 percent lower when hardwired smoke alarms and sprinklers were present.

The calculations above were based solely on the presence of fire protection equipment, but the equipment’s operation was not considered.

In a 2018 study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, less than a quarter of households in 1977 had fire/smoke alarms. The numbers increased throughout the 1970s through the 2000s. The importance of these detectors hit home and dramatically ramped up and as of today, 97% of homes have some type of fire and smoke alarm.

I recall many years ago in 1994, when professional tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis, who was living in Kings Point, was visiting a friend in South Hampton.  An improperly installed pool heater caused carbon monoxide gas to travel into the pool house where he was sleeping, causing his death at the early age of 40.  I do not know if there was a functioning fire smoke and carbon monoxide detector at that time, but if there was, it would have potentially saved his life.

The liability and agony of the loss of life not only is traumatic but can be financially devastating, too. I am quite sure insurance policies require fire-smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor. As they say, an ounce of prevention will provide a pound of cure and save lives, too.

New homes are required by local building codes to have hardwired alarms (with battery backups in case of a blackout) on all floors.  However, it is a prudent idea to test your alarms regularly whether battery-operated or hard-wired to make absolutely sure they are operational.  Also, they can be tied into your central dispatch system, so if you’re away, the Fire Department will be notified of any incidences of fire, smoke, or carbon monoxide issues.

One final thought has to do with frozen and broken pipes that may occur (especially last week) especially with the kind of frigid air that we all have recently experienced. When we have these types of unusual freezing temperatures for any length of time, there are additional devices that some are utilizing today. They will not only notify you of any type of water leakage with an application for your cell but will also shut off your main water supply, preventing thousands of dollars of potential damage.  For outside exposed pipes you can purchase low 24V wiring online or at your local or big box stores.  Then you can wrap it around your faucets, and plug-in it into a local electrical outlet to prevent the pipes from bursting.

Just today visiting my daughter’s home we saw water running down the street at her friend’s newly purchased home nearby and I knew immediately it was a broken pipe.  I called Manhasset-Lakeville Water and the Fire Department showed up to shut off the water, saving countless thousands of dollars and preventing further damage that would have occurred.  Make sure you leave your temperature at least at 55 degrees.  However, on the north side (the coldest area of your home) be sure to provide enough warmth and protection/insulation to outside pipes and inside walls so bursting pipes will be avoided.

Your life and home are all-important so I advise those without any type of fire-smoke or carbon monoxide devices to have them installed ASAP.  For those who do have them, check regularly and replace the batteries as needed.  This is a must needed task to protect you and your loved ones.


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Philip A. Raices is the owner/Broker of Turn Key Real Estate at 3 Grace Ave Suite 180 in Great Neck.  He has 40 years of experience in the Real Estate industry and has earned designations as a Graduate of the Realtor Institute (G.R.I.) and also as a Certified International Property Specialist (C.I.P.S) as well as the new “Green Industry” Certification for eco-friendly construction and upgrades.  For a “FREE” 15-minute consultation, value analysis of your home, or to answer any of your questions or concerns he can be reached by cell: (516) 647-4289 or by email: [email protected] or via https://WWW.Li-RealEstate.Com  Just email or snail mail (regular mail) him with your ideas or suggestions on future columns with your name, email and cell number and he will call or email you back.

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