Heed the warning, check fire alarms

Published 8:25 am Friday, May 11, 2012

Daily Herald editorial

The story earlier this week about an Emmons, Minn., family who escaped their blazing home because of a baby’s cries ought to have sent a shiver down everyone’s spine. And then it ought to have sent every homeowner and apartment dweller alike on a trip around the home to make sure that every smoke alarm is operational.

It’s not clear why the smoke alarms in the Emmons home didn’t sound a warning before the family’s child did; and the why is unimportant. The reality is that smoke alarms are generally highly dependable (too dependable when they go off due to cooking fumes or steam), and can often make the difference between life and death. Often, older homes aren’t equipped with alarms, or with enough of them. Sometimes people remove the batteries to prevent nuisance alarms. Others simply never get around to checking the batteries. The solutions are simple, however. Install alarms in places where they make sense: Near bedrooms and in other major living spaces. They are not particularly expensive nor does the installation require any particular skill. Test existing alarms. Install new batteries and, at the same time, use a permanent marker to put the date on the new battery as an aid to replacing it on a timely basis.

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Going a step further by installing carbon monoxide alarms also makes sense.

Smoke alarms are a minor expense and a minor inconvenience when weighed against the clear benefit that they offer.