Are your smoke alarms any good?

The answer may surprise you

About 200 households in Virden are safer today because of the free smoke alarm program offered by the Wallace District Fire Department. That's how many detectors have been installed in the last three years since the program launched, guesstimates Fire Chief Brad Yochim.

During this year’s campaign, I asked the fire department to check the smoke detectors in my two-storey Virden house. I had recently replaced the batteries so figured they’d pass with flying colours.

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But to my surprise, they failed the test. Yochim checked the date stamp, finding both units had expired years ago!

Even if your alarms still seem to work, they do age out, as I learned. Most safety experts recommend getting new alarms every 10 years. If you don’t know when yours were installed, check the back of the unit for the date it was manufactured. Because when it comes to protecting lives and property, smoke alarms make a huge difference (see the numbers below).

Yochim replaced mine with new Kidde alarms that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide. Since I have a natural gas furnace, a CO leak is possible so this feature provides protection and peace of mind.

These two-way alarms not only sound a piercing scream when activated but also a voice warning that states the type of danger. And each unit is equipped with a sealed lithium battery that lasts the life of the alarm, so no more annual battery replacement – bonus.

Yochim says the retail value of these alarms is about $60 each but they're donated to fire departments across Manitoba for this program by three organizations: Red River Mutual Insurance, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, and the Firefighters Burn Fund.

The WDFD received about 60 of the detectors this year and some are still available. If anyone is interested in getting their smoke alarms tested and upgraded, call WDFD Station 1 in Virden. (Program not applicable to wired-in alarms.)

Why you should care:

  • More than half of all home fire deaths happen in homes without working smoke alarms.
  • In Canada, more than 300 people die each year of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Most incidents occur in winter because of increased use of furnaces and wood-burning fireplaces. 
  • If CO gas fills the home while you sleep, it can kill before anyone realizes there’s a problem.


© Virden Empire-Advance

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