​​Chirps and beeps: The sounds that can save your life

Oct. 4, 2021

Hear a beep, get on your feet. Get out and stay out.

et's be honest with ourselves: No one likes the sounds a smoke alarm makes. All that chirping and beeping? It's enough to scare you right out of your skin.

But here's a newsflash: That's the entire point. If smoke alarms made pleasant, melodious noises, they wouldn't give you the adrenaline rush you need to go from a deep sleep to on your feet and out the door in under two minutes (which, by the way, is the average amount of time you have to get out safely before your entire house goes up in flames).

That's why the theme of this year's Fire Prevention Week is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety!" The aim is to educate adults and children alike about the different sounds smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms make:

  • Hear a beep, get on your feet. Get out and stay out.
  • Hear a chirp, make a change. A chirping alarm needs attention — likely a new battery or to be replaced entirely.

Fire Prevention Week is this week, and it's a great time to talk with your family about the sounds of fire safety. Learning to recognize these sounds is just the beginning, though. What's really important is what you do in response to them. If your smoke or CO alarm is chirping, that means you need to replace the batteries or the entire unit if it's over 10 years old. You'll know it needs to be replaced if it keeps chirping even after you replace the batteries, or if it's past the expiration date marked on the back of the unit. You can learn more about your specific unit by checking the user guide or searching the brand and model online.

A continued set of three loud beeps—beep, beep, beep—means smoke or fire. Get out, call 911, and stay out. This is easier said than done unless you have an escape plan and you've practiced it with every member of your household. Smoke alarms sense smoke well before you can. You'll need one in every bedroom, outside all sleeping areas (such as a hallway), and on every level of the house, including the basement. To avoid them getting set off accidentally, don't put smoke alarms in your kitchen or bathrooms.

If you want a pleasant tune, crank up your favorite song on your headphones. If you want to survive a fire or CO leak, get familiar with the unpleasant but life-saving noises your smoke and CO alarms make—and know what to do when you hear them.