It’s happened to everyone at least once. Whether it’s from failed cooking attempts or a low battery, your smoke detector begins to chirp every 30 to 60 seconds, driving you—and your pets—crazy.
Once you determine there’s no fire danger, likely the first thing you do is search online for information on how to turn the beeping off. You’ll find that one of the main reasons smoke detectors chirp is a low battery. Beyond needing to have the batteries replaced, smoke or carbon monoxide detectors can malfunction for a variety of reasons. There’s no doubt that a chirping smoke detector is annoying, but worse is a nonfunctioning one.
Device age, poor placement, tampering with the devices, and exposure to elements such as dust, steam, paint, or water are reasons for concern. Yet statistics show that missing or dead batteries are the chief reasons smoke detector alarms don’t sound in an emergency.
Here’s the thing: While that beeping may be a nuisance, smoke detectors save lives. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states there are, on average, 358,500 home fires in the United States every year—that’s one every 87 seconds—and those fires cause approximately 3,000 deaths a year.
One of every three home fire deaths is caused by a smoke detector that didn’t work properly or had no batteries installed. On an optimistic note, NFPA reports that the death rate per 1,000 home fires was 55 percent lower in homes with working smoke alarms than in homes with no alarms or nonfunctioning alarms.