False alarm…

So, one of our fancy new Nest Protect smoke alarms that we put up in November woke us up about an hour before the alarm clock this morning with loud beeping interspersed with a voice saying “Alert. There is smoke downstairs.”

Up. Lights. Visual check. No smoke.

Alarm still going off, I pulled on yesterday’s clothes and grabbed the cat while he hit the furnace cutoff switch and ran down to check the basement.

The cat, I’m pleased to say, gave me no trouble going into her carrier. It was still in the front room because I didn’t get around to bringing it back down to the basement after her last vet visit – now I think the front room is a good place to keep it. If there was a real fire, carrying her outside in the carrier would be much easier – on all of us – than trying to keep her in my arms if she panicked.

No smoke in the basement, no smoke in the downstairs, no smoke upstairs, with the alarms still going. He tried waving it off again and it finally silenced – afterwards, I read that the more serious the alarm the more you have to wave to convince the unit it’s an intentional silencing movement.

We checked the house again – no signs of anything wrong. Then the Nest Protect indicator turned green, it said “smoke clearing,” and we were done.

Well, done with the immediate nuisance, anyway. Then I called up their support line and waited on hold for several minutes. The rep was very courteous, though, and it felt like he was actually listening and responding rather than just working his way down a checklist. I mean, I’m sure there was a checklist and I think checklists are useful, but sometimes the people using them are about as non-responsive to comments that aren’t on the checklist as a dry-erase board would be. This guy, however, felt like he was paying attention to me. I forgot to write his name down, but he did well.

The rep asked several questions, one of which was “is it close to any source of heat.” Since we had it located directly above one of our air vents, he asked that we move its location, clean it with compressed air in case dust was a factor, and go through the calibration process again once it’s in place. So for the moment, we’ve got the batteries out and I’ll pick up some compressed air on the way home from work. The rep also promised to document all of this so that if we get another false alarm they’ll send a replacement right away, but he checked the unit remotely and saw no codes for either battery or sensor faults.

Negatives of this experience:
-One false alarm shakes our confidence in the system, and introduces both an element of question if we get an alert while out of the house and an element of bracing for the next false alarm interrupting our sleep. I think only time will address this.
-Waking up to a smoke alarm sucks.
-I’m really hoping that we don’t get another false alarm in the middle of the night, but kind of expecting it now…

Positives of this experience:
-I think we reacted well overall, since getting the cat and us out of harm’s way is the priority in any emergency, and since the furnace is the most likely source of combustion in the middle of the night.
-The three Nest Protect units and the phone apps worked together as advertised, all giving the same alert. The Nest Protect in the basement gave a “Cannot be hushed here” message when I waved at it, which confirmed that we had set the units as “Upstairs,” “Downstairs,” and “Basement.”
-Customer service was helpful, and also suggested regular cleaning of the Nest Protect units, which I’ll add to the calendar.
-It revealed a few improvements I think we can make to our emergency preparedness.

Anyway, here’s hoping heat and dust was all it was, so we don’t need to go through this again. :-p

3 Responses to False alarm…

  • Adam says:

    I remember as a kid we had a smoke alarm that when off repeatedly the reason was a spider kept trying to build a web inside and the spider web would complete some circuit inside and set it off. That was a fun couple of days.

  • Anthea says:

    For the longest time, we didn’t have a smoke alarm upstairs at all, because no matter where on the floor we put it, it went off when you opened the bathroom door after a shower.

    These don’t do that, at least. :)

  • Laura says:

    I’m glad to hear you are all okay! That’s a lot of excitement, but as you say, it’s a good chance to practice your escape plan and ensure that your system is set up properly. I hope this doesn’t become a common occurrence.

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© 2010 Catherine Wechsler, used with permission. http://cwechsler.zenfolio.com/

© 2010 Catherine Wechsler, used with permission.

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