October 15th, 2018, Minneapolis, Minnesota:
The calendar has flipped over to October, and like it or not, winter lurks around the corner. It’s the time of year when we’re switching on the furnaces, which increases smoke, fire and carbon monoxide risks. October has long been designated by the National Fire Protection Association as Fire Prevention Month to jog our memories to evaluate fire systems to make sure they are inspected, maintained and working properly.
To be clear, I’m talking about more than just climbing a step ladder and replacing batteries in smoke detectors in all of your locations. I’ve put together useful information into what I call “Smoke Detectors 101” as a guide to the all-important annual checkup of your fire and carbon dioxide safety systems.
Often, smoke detectors signal you when it’s time for fresh batteries—you know, that annoying beep that usually starts in the middle of the night. Yet, that beep could mean it’s not just the batteries. It could be a warning that there’s a problem with the device itself.
Sometimes, there are no beeps so you either assume it’s operating OK or you’ve simply forgotten that it’s time for a checkup. All beeps aside, you need to test the batteries and the smoke detector, to make sure they’re operating well and your people and buildings are protected.

Most of the newer smoke detectors in residential homes are required to be linked and programmed together so they “talk” to each other. If one goes off in one area, it can set others off. The detectors may or may not be connected to your security system, but they still are required to communicate with each other.

In older buildings, if you replace a smoke detector that talks to others, you have to replace it with the same brand and model or they won’t be able to communicate with each other. We had to replace a smoke alarm system for a Princeton, Minnesota, client because the different brands they had been using were incompatible with each other.

Detector systems over 10 years old may be obsolete so it’s a smart and safe idea to change all of the devices; to make sure they are compatible. It’s also a wise move to buy some spare detectors, so it’s easy to replace if there’s a malfunction.


Keep in mind that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detector signals may sound the same, but they are alerting you to very different potential problems. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless colorless gas. Gas fires, boilers, central heating systems, water heaters and fireplaces, which use gas, oil, coal and wood can be sources of CO gas. Too much of the gas leads to CO poisoning, which happens when fuel does not fully burn. Running a car engine in an enclosed space, such as an attached garage, can cause also CO poisoning. Too much CO will at first be flu-like symptoms, but it can quickly be deadly.

Unlike smoke and dust that are dense, carbon monoxide (CO) is lighter so the detector acts like a filter. Inside the detector an electro-chemical cell reacts in the presence of CO. While these detectors tend to be very accurate, over time the chemical can degrade and its performance is diminished. As a result, CO detectors go bad faster. Their life expectancy is usually five to seven years. Most carbon monoxide detectors have “expiration” dates on the back so check the date during your safety evaluation.

Now that you have studied “Smoke Detectors 101,” get started on your checkup. Call Brothers Fire & Security to schedule your inspections. When we’re done, your detectors will be at their peak performance and ready for winter’s blasts—and that’s peace of mind for everyone!


As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods.