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Mami’s Truth: Why I Will Never Forget to Check Our Smoke Detectors Again!

Smoke Detectors Save Lives

There are some things that happen in life that I wish I can make up… but I can’t even if I try. One of those things happens to be our family history with smoke detectors. Smoke detectors are one of those things that can easily be taken advantage of and ignored until it is too late.

Where It Began…

When my oldest was 3 years old, she had a traumatic experience with a smoke detector. While she was using the potty in her preschool, a plumber working in the building accidentally set off the building smoke alarm. Fortunately, there was no real fire… but imagine being in the bathroom and literally getting caught with your pants down while the smoke alarm is going off. I know that as an adult it would scare the living daylights out of me… imagine being only 3 years old! As you would expect, she started crying hysterically. The teacher ran in, grabbed her and ran outside. My daughter had to finish using the bathroom outside by a tree as the teachers needed to wait for the all clear to go back into the building.

From That Point On…

From that point on, my daughter was beyond terrified of smoke detectors. I believe she actually developed some PTSD from this experience. It was to the point where she would see smoke detectors (not even hear them) and cry. If it chirped (like when it needed a battery), it was as if the end of the world was here.

I had to constantly console her and remind her that smoke detectors were our friends and there to keep us safe. To make it easier for a 3 year old to understand, I told her that the beeping sound a smoke detector made was its way of talking. One beep every now and then was it telling us we needed to check its battery. Constant beeping meant there was danger and we needed to get to a safe space. I also frequently tested the alarm so that she can hear the alarm and feel more comfortable when hearing it. But, it would be about 3 years before she was able to hear a smoke detector without a full physical reaction to it.

Fast Forward to September 2019…

One day, my oldest woke up with an ugly sounding cold so I decided to keep her home from school. Of course, after we dropped her sister off at school and came back home she was miraculously better. Wanting to get my daily walk in and get some fresh air to keep germs out of my house, we decided to go for a walk around our neighborhood.

While on our walk, we walked past a house and heard the smoke detector going off.  I could see the smallest physical reaction from my daughter as she began to ask repeatedly… “What is that?” We stopped and I listened, I told her it was the smoke detector going off in somebody’s house. Her immediate response was the right response… call 911. Not seeing or smelling any smoke or flames and not knowing if anyone was home or not, I said let’s walk to the end of the street and back. If it is still going off, we will call the fire department.

Upon our return to the front of the house, the alarm was still going off and it was obvious that no one was home. Still not seeing or smelling smoke or fire, I called the non-emergency fire department number to report the alarm. They took all of the info and said they were on their way. My daughter was very interested in seeing what happened next so we walked up and down the street until the firefighters came (and fortunately we did because they stopped at the wrong house).

The Firefighters Arrived…

When the firefighters got out of their vehicles, they asked us some questions and spent a good amount of time walking around the house. While we waited, the police showed up and we were asked more questions. In the end, they agreed that it appeared that no one was home and that they did not see or smell smoke or fire. The occupants of the house had left windows open so the firefighters planned to climb in through a window to get the beeping smoke detector.

While my daughter wanted to stay to the end because she was excited to see how the situation played out, I decided it was time to go. Having worked in forensic pathology and being married to a gas pipe mechanic… I only imagined worst case scenarios of what could happen when they climbed in the window (the problem of knowing too much… lol). In the end, my daughter was very proud of the fact that we were good citizens and took action to help a house that may have been in need. This was definitely a great lesson on being a good citizen and making the right choices.

Why I Will Never Forget To Check My Smoke Detectors…

As if Monday wasn’t exciting enough, Friday was even more exciting. Why? Because I almost burned our house down. Yes… as much as I hate to admit it and as careful as I usually am, I made a mistake that could have cost us our house. But the lessons I learned from it are SOOOO valuable that I am sharing this story in the hopes of helping at least one other person.

You see… it was a crazy day. I was literally going non-stop. I had a meeting with my little one’s teacher after school so my girls went home with my neighbor. After I picked my girls up, we ran home so that I can quickly finish making dinner. I had only 1 hr before we had to leave so that we can visit a possible place to hold their birthday party. I had made pasta with chicken and all that I needed to do was make a sauce.

To make the sauce, I placed unsalted butter in a sauce pan to melt. I turned the fire on and ran to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the bathroom took longer than I anticipated and before I knew it, my girls ran screaming to me saying there was a fire in the kitchen. When I got to the kitchen, there were flames shooting out of the pan that were just about touching the exhaust hood.

My First Reaction…

My first reaction was to pull the pan off of the heat. I then took a lid and covered the fire. However, I grabbed the first lid I saw and it was the pasta strainer lid which had holes in it which did not really help. I then grabbed another lid and switched the lids out. Eventually the fire extinguished by itself.

During the entire ordeal, my girls were screaming and crying, terrified of what they saw… and who could blame them?! I was just as nervous but kept my composure and stood calm to keep them calm… because I am a mom. Once they were calm and I was sure the fire was out, I looked around my smoke filled house and began to wonder why the smoke detector was not going off.  After opening all of the windows, I stood on a chair to check the smoke detector. What I found literally made me feel like I was punched in the stomach.

The smoke detector had no battery! I could not believe my eyes but immediately knew what happened and it all boiled down to miscommunication. AT one point in time, the smoke alarm was chirping because it needed a battery. I took it down and left it on the counter with no battery as to not re-traumatize my oldest. Not having a 9V battery I called my husband and asked him to bring one home. He said ok. When I saw it up on the ceiling the next morning, I assumed he put the battery in it… but I was wrong. Hubby needed the counter space and put it back up until he bought the battery… which he never did. Lesson learned!

Lessons Learned!!!

I share my experiences in an effort to help you not make the same mistakes. PLEASE… do not have the mentality that it can’t happen to you because… it can! It is so important to educate yourself and your family about fire safety. Here are some tips and lessons learned:

  • Come up with a family fire escape plan.

    Make sure your family knows different ways to evacuate the house in case of an emergency and designate a place where you will re-unite if there is an emergency.

  • Test your smoke alarm weekly.

    This is important to make sure your smoke alarm has a battery and is working as it should be. I admittedly slacked on doing this the past year but now have a reminder in my calendar to do so. When I test the alarm, I make sure the family is here so they are all aware.

  • Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years.

    Replace the entire smoke alarm unit (not just the batteries) every 10 years (replace 10 years from the date on the back of the smoke alarm). This ensures that the technology that makes the smoke alarm will work when needed. I was not aware this needed to be done and the same goes for just about everyone I asked.

  • Educate course of about the different types of smoke alarms.

    Yes… there are 3 types of smoke detectors…. Ionization, Photoelectric and Dual Sensors. I learned this the day after I almost burned my house down as I stood in Home Depot to purchase all new smoke detectors for the entire house. Learn them and decide what is best for your house.

  • If safe to do so, turn off the power source.

    This is a tip I learned when I took my daughters to the Trumbull Volunteer Firefighters Open House. In my case, I have an electric stove but was safely able to turn the heat off of the pan that was flaming. If it is not safe to turn the heat off… run to your circuit breaker and flip the switch off (of course do this only if it is safe to do so).

  • Do not leave items cooking on the stove that may be flammable or leave your stove unattended for long periods of time.

    I mean… who knew butter can be flammable? It only takes seconds for the item to reach its combustible point and burst into flames. Don’t risk it!

Want to learn more information about fire prevention? Check out the National FIre Protection Association.

Want to learn more about the Mami behind Mami Works? Click here.

What are other important fire safety tips to remember? Let me know below.

MamiWorks

My name is Michelle and I am the wife of the hardest working man I know, the Mami of 3 beautiful and AMAZING girls and a Pathologists’ Assistant turned Stay at Home Mami turned Mompreneur of not one… or two… but three businesses! I am super excited to share my experiences and learn from you. As women/moms/entrepreneurs, we must stick together and support each other!

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