Spring Forward, Preventive Maintenance With Smoke Detectors

The change to Daylight Savings Time is a calendar point when  residential home owners are encouraged to check the smoke detectors in their homes.  Apartment residents can benefit by being encouraged to do the same.  Time and time again, fires are reported with fatalities.  These tragedies occur in both single family homes and apartments.  It’s hard to understand how this happens with the range of devices available to notify individuals of fire and smoke in their homes.

However, smoke detectors cannot be effective if they’re disabled.  Most apartment communities have a policy to issue warnings or lease violations if a smoke detector is disabled by the resident.  The disabling of a smoke detector is rendering a safety feature of the apartment home inactive.  Educating residents to understand the personal danger in addition a violation of the lease.  Repeated documented violations could warrant eviction (depending on the specific language of the lease and community policies.)

Resident Education

Education for residents and staff can be beneficial.  During the apartment tours and inspections point out the smoke detectors.  Identify each location and their functionality as a marketing tool.

  • placing a smoke detector in every bedroom.
  • understanding the carbon monoxide detector.
  • the reason for a smoke detector on each level of the apartment home.
  • why smoke detectors are hardwired to a building alarm, with a battery back up.

Policy for Disabling Smoke Detectors

As well, as the explanation for damaging/disabling the devices.

“Disabling a smoke detector puts not only the occupants of this apartment home, but also the residents  of the neighboring units at risk.  If a smoke detector is found disabled in your apartment, a lease violation will be issued, and it could result in eviction.”

test smoke detectorIf maintenance or leasing staff discovers a disabled in an occupied apartment, it should be documented, repaired and a notice/warning issued to the resident. Does maintenance staff test the smoke detector every time they enter an apartment home? The buzz or beep can be annoying to residents until it saves a life. Waiting for annual inspections to test smoke detectors does not take advantage of the occasions when maintenance is already in the apartment to insure that all of the provided devices are working correctly.

expiration smoke detector

Shelf Life for Smoke Detectors

It is also important to remember that smoke detectors have a useful “shelf” life. A smoke detector is working “all the time,” monitoring the environment for the presence of smoke. This is part of the reason replacement of batteries is warranted, not the number of times, the smoke detector has issued an audible tone. Manufacturer specifications generally recommend replacement of smoke detectors after ten years. Recent replacement of the smoke detector has the ability to be a marketing feature for a property. Every apartment home has a smoke detector but how often is it described as a feature.

Expiration dates of other safety features should also be monitored. Are fire extinguishers provided in each apartment home? Is instruction provided to residents describing how to use a fire extinguisher? Could the property offer training a couple times during the course of the year with instruction for both residents and staff on the use of fire extinguishers?

Discovering disabled smoke detectors during an municipal or agency inspection is frustrating for a property staff and usually carries a severe negative impact on the scoring. But more importantly, an important safety device has been disabled in the apartment building affecting the ability to notify the occupants of the building of a life threatening situation. Education and preventive maintenance can improve the effectiveness of this system. While generating some opportunities for resident retention and adding to the features and benefits in the apartment homes.

Lori Hammond
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