Knowing these sounds can save you time – and your life – in an emergency
Guest Editorial by The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York
Do you know what a continuous set of three loud beeps from your fire alarm means? How about four? Knowing the difference between these sounds can save you, your home and your family. Instead of taking immediate action in an emergency situation, many people waste time trying to figure out what the sounds mean instead of calling for help. Time is a valuable asset during a crisis and can mean the difference between life and death.
In support of this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme (“Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety”), The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) wants to educate New Yorkers on the different sounds their home alarms make and how they should respond.
“Our lives and our homes are filled with technologies that use all kinds of sounds to help us. Sometimes all the beeps and chirps can just become white noise,” said John Farrell, president of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York. “The sounds of our smoke and carbon monoxide alarms can help save lives or warn us when our lifesaving devices are starting to reach the end of their useful life. It is important that all New Yorkers know the ‘Sounds of Fire Safety’ and make the proper response when they hear them.”
Many residents remove the batteries from their alarms when they begin to chirp and end up forgetting to replace them. Others may think the sounds are a result of a defect. Unfortunately, by not investigating the situation further, it could present serious risks in the case of a fire or emergency situation. According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), three out of every five home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms or in homes lacking smoke detectors. And a quarter of all smoke alarm failures are caused by dead batteries.
Working smoke alarms save lives by cutting the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Smoke alarms should be installed and maintained in every dwelling.
Smoke Alarm Safety Tips from NFPA
•Know the difference between the sounds of your alarms:
√ Smoke alarms: three beeps.
√ Carbon monoxide alarms: four beeps.
√ Click here for downloadable sound files from NFPA, under Teach Fire Safety—“Sounds of Fire Safety,” to help differentiate between different alarm sounds.
•When a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm sounds, respond immediately by first exiting your home, calling 911, and staying out of your home.
•Test your smoke alarms monthly by holding down the test button.
•If your smoke alarm begins to chirp – typically a single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds – it means the batteries are low and should be replaced.
√ If your smoke alarm continues chirping after batteries are replaced, it means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced.
•Regularly replace your alarm’s batteries once a year.
√ If your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, it is time to replace the alarm.
•Since 2019, New York state law requires all new or replacement smoke alarms in New York to be powered by a 10-year, sealed, nonremovable battery, or hardwired to the home.
√ Ten-year fire alarms still need to be tested monthly, and replaced every 10 years.
√ Ten-year fire alarms will chirp when their battery is low.
•Make sure your smoke and CO alarms meet the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.
√ If there is someone in your household who is deaf or hard of hearing, install a bed shaker and strobe light alarms that will alert that person to fire.
•Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home for the best protection. When one sounds, they all sound. Make sure you can hear the sound of the smoke alarm.
Founded in 1872, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents the interests of the more than 85,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York state. For more information, visit www.fasny.com.