Annual Inspections – Smoke / Carbon Monoxide Alarm

December 13th, 2016 · 3 Comments · Property Management, Rental Property

fire-safety-tipsIt’s the time of year when we do Fire Inspections around here, and I have to say after the house I went to see last week, I’m going to adopt a big fat no policy towards my clients doing their own fire safety checks.

The landlord had her contractors install the fire alarm / carbon monoxide detectors and they were the kind meant to be hardwired in.  Like these…

plug-in-smoke-alarmThe alarms did have a a battery back up, so they were working, but battery back ups are meant to work for a short period of time when there is no power to the alarm. Not a full year. So I about had a heart attack when I saw what kind of alarm had been installed.

I also uninstalled an alarm from 1996 in the laundry room.  If you don’t need a device take it off.

My understanding is that you need

  • One smoke detector on every level of the house
  • Smoke detectors less than 10 years old
  • One carbon monoxide detector on every level of the house
  • Carbon monoxide detector less than 7 years old
  • These devices should be located close to any bedrooms/sleeping areas in the house.
  • If you have any gas appliances, you need a carbon monoxide detector.
  • It’s not just for the floor the gas appliance is on, it’s on every floor of the house.
  • Smoke & Carbon Monoxide detectors can be combined.

I despise the plug in carbon monoxide detectors, when I do inspections people bring them to me unplugged from a shelf in their garage because they needed to plug in something and they removed it and forgot to plug it back in.  There’s no way to get around it people are stupid and do stupid things. Your fire safety planning should include this undeniable fact.

My Current Fire Safety Policy

I like the following combined smoke/carbon monoxide alarm with a sealed in 10 year battery.

This alarm is sealed which means your tenants cannot take batteries from it for their remote control or kids toys, and then report you to the City Fire Inspector when they owe you 2 months rent. I use to buy the replaceable battery kind, but now I buy this kind. One guess why I only buy the sealed battery kind now.

Sometimes I do need a hard wired smoke/carbon monoxide detector, and there are some with 10 year sealed battery units.

These alarms are not cheap, but a lot cheaper than going to jail if your house has a fire. I also use just the smoke/carbon monoxide detector with typical battery backup for these hardwired alarms, it’s not so crucial if the battery is taken out of this one. In any case it’s a 9 Volt so not really a popular battery.

Lots of time I’m stuck with what I can get in stock at the local home improvement store and they usually cost about $60 plus tax each or more depending on the store.

So for the holidays this year, give the gift of safety and go visit your tenants and check their alarms, replace any smoke alarms that are older than 10 years, and any carbon monoxide detectors that are older than 7 years old. If one of the units needs to be changed I usually get one new combo unit for both and add a sealed 10 year battery. This method is simplicity. There is one device for every floor. You don’t have to try to remember if it’s AA batteries or D batteries. You don’t need any batteries at all. There is no problem with tenants unplugging the carbon monoxide detector because they need the plug.

Also… while you are all in fire safety mode… Change your own damn batteries/alarms and go grab the carbon monoxide off the shelf in your garage. You are worthy of your own sparkling new combined smoke/ carbon monoxide detector with sealed 10 year battery unit. Give yourself the gift of escape from fire/suffocation for this holiday! I hear it’s the new trend in Europe.

Less is more. Simplicity is Awesome!


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3 Comments so far ↓

  • H. Marshall

    Great article for everyone, owners and tenants.

    Lots of fires in condos, both townhouses and towers.

  • M-

    I had a house fire once when I was a child. The children’s bedrooms were downstairs, and there was a (closed) door separating downstairs from upstairs. Each floor only had one smoke alarm. The downstairs smoke alarm was in the laundry room (where the furnace and hot water tank were located).

    The fire started in my sister’s bedroom, with a clip-on incandescent lamp that ended up under a pillow. My sister had gone upstairs to sleep in my parents’ bedroom. The lamp had been left on, and heated up until it set the bed on fire. The smoke alarm was useless, because the laundry room door was closed. The upstairs smoke alarm was also useless, because the door to the stairs was closed.

    My dad woke up at some point, and smelled smoke. He went downstairs to investigate, and found it was full of thick, acrid smoke. My bedroom door had been closed, so I was OK. I remember being woken up from a deep sleep, it was all hazy in the room, and my dad was in a panic, shouting “GET UP, GET UP, WE’VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!!!!!!”

    After that, there were firetrucks and hoses, and they put the fire out. Lots of smoke and water damage, but no serious damage to the house (saved by the drywall!)

    Moral of the story: fires can happen, and you don’t know what might cause it. Bedrooms should have smoke detectors. If a smoke detector is poorly placed, put it somewhere where it will stand a better chance of detecting something.

    A lesson from my last house: if a smoke detector is placed too close to the kitchen, so that it gets it batteries pulled because of nuisance alarms, it would be better to reposition it somewhere where it’ll be less-likely to alarm on a daily basis.

    • Rachelle

      I once managed a town house complex where about 50% of the smoke alarms would have batteries pulled out due to continual fake alarming. I moved them. They were in the doorway to the kitchen. Another trouble spot… in front of or around the bathroom.

      Just move the alarm or get one that can’t be disabled.