OPINION: Check your detectors


My Maricopa home is old enough to vote — but at 18 years old, it’s in pretty good condition. However, with the holidays bringing tons of guests and cooking into the house, I worry about fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Al Brandenburg Maricopa
Al Brandenburg

Most homes in Maricopa are just over a decade old, and 10 years is the useful life expectancy of the original smoke detectors built into our homes. If you haven’t already replaced your smoke detectors, it’s time to get serious about doing it now. You might be diligent about replacing your batteries to quiet that low-power chirping, but it is important to check the date of manufacture and date of expiration listed on the back of the detector. 

If your home has celebrated its 10th birthday, the unit is most likely expired and may not sound an alarm if there is a fire — even with fresh batteries. Licensed electricians can provide new detectors and install them for you. You can also buy them from stores like ACE Hardware and install them yourself. They aren’t expensive. 

The local fire department may also help you install those units on high ceilings beyond your reach. The easiest solution is to buy exact replacements of the smoke detectors you have now, using the same bases, wiring and connectors. Remember to turn off the circuit-breaker controlling the smoke detector first. 

To disconnect the old alarm, twist the body of the unit and it will drop down so the wires can be disconnected. Then, plug in the new unit’s wire connector and twist it onto the base. No tools required! Consider installing new alarms with 10-year lithium-ion batteries instead of regular alkaline batteries. Whatever you choose to do, it’s time to act now. 

Death from carbon monoxide poisoning takes only minutes. Keep your family and guests safe by using a CO detector, which can alert you to the presence of this odorless, silent and toxic gas. 

Fuel-burning appliances such as gas stoves, gas dryers, gas water heaters and gas furnaces are generally well-designed, tested and safe to use, but over time, components can age and pipes and vents get clogged. Should there be a clogged vent or any part of the appliance becomes faulty, hazardous levels of carbon monoxide could be released in your home. When your CO detector is beeping, never ignore the alarm. Open all windows and turn off any gas appliances. After the home has been thoroughly ventilated, reset the CO detectors. 

If the detectors do not sound the alarm again, ensure safety by calling a qualified technician to inspect and repair any gas problems. Call the gas company as well. Should the alarm sound a second time, call 9-1-1. If the alarm didn’t sound but the unit is chirping, replace the battery and check the expiration date inside the unit to see if the unit needs replacing. 

If anyone is showing symptoms of CO poisoning, get everyone, including your pets, out of the house. Then dial 9-1-1. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, dizziness and nausea. Do not re-enter the home until emergency responders indicate it is safe to do so.  

CO alarms need replacing every five to seven years. You can get more advice from the Maricopa Fire Department at its non-emergency phone number: 520-568-3673. 

Enjoy the holidays and do so safely!