First responders warn about dangers of old smoke alarms

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – First responders are warning people to check their smoke detectors, after a survey by the National Fire Protection Association showed 9 out of 10 consumers are unaware of how often they need to replace them.

Everyone knows it’s important to change the batteries in smoke detectors, but many people don’t know they are supposed to completely replace it every 10 years. The sensor, which acts as the sniffer on the smoke alarm, deteriorates over time. Just because the lights are blinking and it’s beeping, that doesn’t mean the sensor inside is working.

Firefighters at Greenville Fire-Rescue say many people they speak with haven’t changed their smoke detectors in 20 years or more.

Greg Gibson said the consequences could be severe, “If you don’t, it might fail when you needed it to in the morning. It could be the difference between life and death for you or your family member. So they’re very important and they’re very inexpensive compared to a life.”

It’s easy to find out how old the smoke alarm is by turning it over and looking at the date it was manufactured.

Gibson said faulty smoke alarms are a big problem in eastern North Carolina, “You do have a lot of older houses and you have people that are renting these houses at times and they’re not real good about checking their smoke detectors and the owners. Most people think if I have one, it should be good to go.”

There are now new smoke detectors that come with 10-year batteries. They chirp when the entire unit needs to be replaced. First responders recommend buying these to simplify the process.

To get a free smoke detector, call Greenville Fire-Rescue Station One in uptown Greenville to make an appointment. They’ll even help install it, or check to make sure one already installed is working properly. Many other fire departments offer similar services.

Everyone should change the batteries in their smoke detectors about every six months. First responders recommend doing this when the time changes in the fall and the spring.

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