Last night at about 1:45 am, which is technically today, our interconnected house smoke alarms went off for no reason. You know, the smoke alarms where if one goes off, they all go off. Yeah, those. I make this distinction because we also have a handful of independent, battery-powered smoke alarms throughout the house and none of those went off.
Anyway, I never do well when I’m startled out of bed in the middle of the night and last night was no exception; it took me a few seconds to realize what was going on, but once I did my wife and I bolted out of the room and started looking for the trouble… followed very closely by a now shaking dog who NEVER appreciates it when the smoke alarms sound.
Once I realized that there wasn’t a problem on the main level, I quickly ran downstairs fearing that the kids had maybe left the space heater on and it caught something on fire. But, when I checked, I saw no fire and smelled no smoke. So, I quickly moved to my boy’s room (they share a room)… nothing. Finally, I checked on my niece’s room… nothing again.
My oldest son managed to rouse himself from his slumber enough to ask me what was going on. I didn’t know and told him to go back to bed.
The smoke alarms were still going off at this time and, realizing there wasn’t an immediate threat, I started to attempt to silence the smoke alarms but they stopped blaring at about the same time. I then choose to do one last check around the house just to be sure. Still nothing.
Confused, I tried to lay back down and wouldn’t you know it… the smoke alarms went off again about 20 minute later!
Less concerned that there was an actual fire, I decided to silence the alarms initially because they were driving me nuts, and then I set off to check the house yet again. Nothing. I’m not disappointed, mind you, just confused.
This morning I did a quick search to try and figure out why I was so rudely awoke in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, and I happened upon this article which gave me a few possibilities besides the obvious ones, including:
- Humidity / steam. Apparently smoke alarms can’t distinguish between smoke particles and high moisture content which I think is odd, though probably not my problem because it’s wintertime and not super humid in the house.
- Chemical odors. This would be strong odors, such as ammonia or paint fumes. I wasn’t using any strong chemicals or painting in the middle of the night, so this probably isn’t the issue either.
- Dust. I think I knew that dust could set off a smoke alarm but, again, there’s no reason for heavy amounts of dust to have been in the air.
- Insects. I had no idea that small bugs could crawl into a smoke alarm and set one off. And, if I had to pick one odd reason, this would be it because we do have an inordinate amount of creepy-crawlies around and inside our house.
Now, let me get to the entire point of this post…
You Know What’s Worse Than Smoke Alarms Going Off For No Reason In The Middle Of The Night?
Besides being started half-to-death, what’s worse is that my youngest son (who’s now twelve years old) didn’t even budge when the alarms went off!
And it’s not like they went off for only a few seconds; the first time they went off they had to be sounding for at least a minute or two. That should clearly be long enough to have woke him up at least to wonder what was going on, but apparently not.
You know, when my kids were much younger, I did worry that they wouldn’t wake up when a smoke alarm went off because I’d seen it happen. After all, young kids can seemingly sleep through anything. I figured, however, that my now much older kids would surely wake up. I was wrong.
In fact, I just asked him this morning if he’d heard the smoke alarm last night and he responded, “No. The smoke alarms went off last night?”
And that’s what I’m now still afraid of.