Yell thou ye might, I shant desist from makin' bacon!
June 26, 2009 9:52 AM   Subscribe

SmokeDetectorFilter: When my smoke detectors go off and I press their happy buttons, why don't they shush? How do I make them shush?

You know the drill: Bacon for breakfast, smoke, fire alarm goes off, you manically run around the apartment, trying anything to turn it off, etc.

I've seen:

1. battery powered fire alarms. You could just remove the battery (after you knock it off the ceiling with a broom handle) and they would shush.

2. more recent ones, connected directly to the building's electrical system (not just battery powered; when removed from the ceiling, you see electric wires connected to (what I assume is) the building's electrical system via an electrical relay thingie). These you could shush by killing the main power switch in the switch box.

The ones in my loft (brand new building) are 2., but even worse. Not only are they connected to the electrical system, but to the building's main fire alarm system. If you can't shush them in 30 seconds (and I can't!), they trigger the main alarm system in the entire building.

That's a problem, not only for me (who's done it once), but for a lot of people living here. I've been here for 2 months and have had to evacuate 5 times so far (~20 minutes each time). These are the false alarms, btw, that send out the fire department.

Possibly worse is the "fire alarm that cried wolf" effect: I don't believe there's a fire when the fire alarm goes off anymore. I just plug my ears with foam ear plugs and walk out onto my balcony to check for smoke.

Why doesn't the button turn the alarm off? Is it just a testing button? Am I supposed to press and hold?

Ideas on how to turn them off?

They're the usual white "oversized hockey puck" smoke detectors.

I can't find documentation on the model, otherwise I'd just RTFM.

The super here is clueless.


I want bacon!
posted by foooooogasm to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The button is for testing, not turning it off.

Your landlord/HOA should be worried about this, if they keep going off, since the fire department will charge them for coming out on a false call. I'd poke them to try replacing the unit, unless you're doing something to set it off, like showering with the door open, making blackened chicken, etc etc.
posted by nomisxid at 9:58 AM on June 26, 2009

We have a similar situation where we live. When we trigger an accidental alarm (e.g., cooking steak indoors on high heat), I kill the heat and then put my hand over the detector while my wife opens windows and turns on fans. After a few minutes of letting the smoke clear out I can safely leave the detector alone.

You'll notice on your picture there are four horizontal openings. That's the part you need to cover. Once there's no more smoke coming in it should switch off quickly.

I don't recommend covering the detector up preventatively, as you could forget to remove the cover, potentially leading to disaster.

If that doesn't work for you, I would consider switching to making bacon over lower heat, in the microwave, or in the oven.
posted by jedicus at 9:58 AM on June 26, 2009

Try cooking your bacon in the oven. Put it on a cookie cooling rack above a cookie sheet. Place it in the oven, turn the oven on (don't put it in a preheated oven), and cook until done. Much less smoke.

(Yeah, I know, this doesn't answer the actual question, but may tangentially solve the problem.)

Or you could microwave it. I prefer baking it, though, since even without the smoke, the smell still permeates the house. Then in the afternoon I return home to a house with a nice bacon aroma and no smoke residue.
posted by krisak at 9:59 AM on June 26, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all. To clarify, the main problem is that I have 30 second window to shut the smoke detector off or the building alarm goes off.

Nothing I can think of shuts it off in 30 seconds.

The problem is exacerbated by the ceiling height. The alarm is 15 feet above my head.
posted by foooooogasm at 10:04 AM on June 26, 2009

we have a hair trigger alarm in our kitchen, too. get in the habit of opening windows and turning on fans before you start cooking anything remotely smoky.
posted by gnutron at 10:07 AM on June 26, 2009

Best answer: If the smoke is hanging out at ceiling level (as it tends to) then maybe a fan at floor level, pointed at the smoke detector, will flood the area with enough clean air to quiet the alarm. If I want my battery-powered alarm to not go off when I'm cooking, I remove it from the ceiling and put it on the floor. Since you can't do that, maybe you can move the floor up to the alarm, so to speak.
posted by FishBike at 10:16 AM on June 26, 2009

Who's the genius who rigged the smoke detectors to a central alarm? My apartment's got one that's connected to the wiring, like yours, and there's no way to shut it off when my cooking sets it off. I just open the patio door and wait. It happens to me a lot. There are times I would have had the fire department over two or three times in a week if things worked like that in my complex. I second the recommendation that you talk to the landlord or HOA. I'd be surprised if the fire department hasn't done that already. They tend to take this sort of thing seriously. Also, microwave bacon can be quite good.
posted by dortmunder at 10:30 AM on June 26, 2009

15' above your head, eh? Get a 16ft telescoping aluminum pole, attach a suitably sized bowl to it, and then use it to cover the detector if it goes off. The pole only weighs 1.25kg, so it shouldn't be too heavy to hold it overhead for a while. If you set the pole up before cooking, you should be able to cover the detector and shut it off within 30 seconds.
posted by jedicus at 10:34 AM on June 26, 2009

I do what FishBike says. I have a fan on the floor pointing directly up. It keeps the smoke moving off of the alarm.
posted by Gor-ella at 10:39 AM on June 26, 2009

Best answer: you have a smoke detector in your kitchen? that seems like a pretty dumb place for a smoke detector - they are not normally installed there. Current National Electric Code says smoke detector in and out of every bedroom, and at the top of stairs - and nothing else.

I would ask your building manager for some info on the smoke detectors. There is a way to re-set it, and you need to find out that info.

If they won't help, call your local fire marshall, explain that you are trying to prevent false alarms, and no one will help you. The fire marshall will be all over them in no time flat, going directly to the building owner.
posted by Flood at 11:11 AM on June 26, 2009

Best answer: Do as many preventative things before you start cooking, but if it goes off airflow is key as noted above. If you don't have a fan, waving a magazine or something under it to clear the smoky air inside it will do the job, and it only takes a few seconds of waving. Since your detector is quite high, you might want to keep something larger at the ready, like the side of a large cardboard box.
posted by mikepop at 11:11 AM on June 26, 2009

Best answer: A previous apartment had a system like that. One smoke detector sets off all the alarms in the place and then eventually notifies the fire dept (or it would, if we had left that feature connected).

The button does indeed silence the alarm, but the trick was that you had to push the button on the detector that first detected smoke. Surprisingly, this was not always the one in the kitchen.
posted by meta_eli at 11:27 AM on June 26, 2009

Best answer: My tried and true method is to get a piece of stiff cardboard, magazine, etc and rapidly fan the detector. Usually shuts off soon enough. However, this won't help you :(

I like the idea of angling a fan up towards the detector. Something like this is exactly what you want. You need a fan on a base that can swivel to point directly up.
posted by sbutler at 11:27 AM on June 26, 2009

Best answer: I really like the idea of the pole & bowl method, though I'd probably cover the detector before cooking the bacon to prevent it from going off at all.
posted by chazlarson at 12:26 PM on June 26, 2009

I'd just like to point out that the lettering of the alarm in the picture that the OP linked to does say "push to hush" and "push and hold to test." So it's not always just a testing button.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:02 AM on June 27, 2009

Response by poster: Ha! I didn't notice that. It's not the brand I have in my loft, but I wish it was. Thanks for pointing that out.

I've half a mind to just remove all 3 of them and replace with own from Home Depot, ones that do have a hush button.
posted by foooooogasm at 6:47 AM on June 27, 2009

Is there a vent fan in your kitchen? That usually helps keep the alarms from going off. But yeah, we replaced ours with ones with a "mute" button
posted by radioamy at 8:34 PM on June 27, 2009

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