Citizen complaint of the day: The problem with hard-wired smoke detectors

An exhausted citizen files a complaint about a sleep-depriving smoke detector on Tower Road in Forest Hills.

Block cannot sleep. Over 37!hours with smoke detectors blasting!!!!Please shut off power to unattended residence, likely not occupied. (3 units and no one home in 36 hours?) please do something about it!!! Super noisy!!! Can hear oneself think!

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Comments

Call The Fire Department!

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It's possible a slow, smoldering fire is setting off the alarms. I'm sure the Fire Department would rather people choose safety over sorrow, and when a citizen hears a fire alarm going off would want them to; by all means; report it right away. The Fire Department is more qualified than anyone to determine for sure, whether or not it really is a false alarm.

All homes are required to have functioning smoke alarms, and malfunctioning alarms present a danger to neighboring buildings as well. False alarms and low-battery chirping encourage some people to disconnect alarms entirely. That's never a good idea, and something the Fire Department would certainly not want to happen.

I would call it in and say: "Fire alarms are going off — I don't see flames or smoke, so maybe it's a false alarm, but could you please check it out to be sure". If the alarms were going off in my house and I wasn't home, I would expect my neighbors to call the Fire Department. People should never become accustomed to ignoring fire alarms!

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Yes!

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We had a house fire in the neighborhood a few years ago, and about 3 months after the fire, i heard the alarm beeping in the vacant house next door. It had been unoccupied for a good 6 weeks. I called the police non-emergency line (altho, as endlessly discussed, if i were a Boston resident i would've called 911). They sent over a full contingent of fire trucks with lights&sirens, but i def did not feel i did the wrong thing. watching my neighbor's place go up as fast as it did and knowing my house was so close to the one with the fire alarm going off made me want to make sure there wasn't anything wrong.

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Ouch! Oh, my god!

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I would've called 9/11 anyway, and called the fire department, because if one calls 9/11, they're likely to take something like that as an emergency to be taken care of...quickly. Too bad you had to watch your neighbor's house go up in flames so quickly. Why was that house unoccupied for so long? Were the neighbors away, or did they move?

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NEVER be afraid to call 911

An alarm is only 'false' if it's a malicious false alarm intentionally conveying false information or just pulling a street alarm box for the hell of it. If you smell smoke or see a person have a cardiac or a car accident or hear an alarm going off, call 911. Don't hesitate, don't delay. Tell them what you see or hear.
You ain't in trouble.

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Maybe fire department has already been there...

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I used to live in a high rise in the Back Bay (about 20 years ago). One day the fire alarms went off, and we all dutifully left the building. The fire department arrived, checked everything out, then gave us all the go-ahead to go back inside and they left.

But the alarms were still going off.

An hour later, I called the fire department's non-emergency number to ask them what gives?

I was told that the fire department does not actually shut off the alarms, it is up to the private alarm company that installed and maintains the system to send someone out to shut the alarm off. In most cases, they are called when the alarm goes off, and arrive shortly after the fire department does...and the alarms are generally shut off after the firefighters are done checking things out but before they leave the property.

In my case the alarm company never showed up. I spent another two hours after that calling the landlord every half hour and threatening them that I would call city hall, ISD, the news media and the biggest, meanest, lawer in town if they didn't get someone out there right away to shut. that. noise. off. It took three hours, and I don't know who was ultimately at fault, but the alarms were finally shut off.

That may be what's going on here...the fire department checked things out long ago, and the citizen making the report has already talked to them about it and can't get in touch with or doesn't have contact info for the property owner.

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This.

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A lot of people don't realize a few things about fire alarms and smoke detectors in rental units:

1) Your landlord will not tell you if your smoke detectors are hardwired or run on batteries. Your landlord also won't necessarily tell you whose responsibility it is to change those batteries, even if they're on the top of a 12 foot ceiling and there's no ladder. Hardwired smoke detectors chirp when the power's off, and they're running on battery backup; battery ones chirp when you need to change the battery.

2) The fire alarm is the landlord's responsibility. It may have a central station function (it calls 911 automatically whenever it goes off) and it may just make a loud noise and you need to call 911 if it's going off. It may frequently malfunction, leaving tenants unsure as to whether they should call the landlord or the fire department when they do not smell smoke. The landlord will not give you any directions on this.

3) Your landlord probably won't test or replace the smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detectors according to their expiration dates. It's your job to test them, and buy your own if they are not working or placed correctly (a carbon monoxide detector on the ceiling is useless, since CO sinks.)

4) It's technically your landlord's job to do all of these things, but they do not care.

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I dunno...

1) Your landlord will not tell you if your smoke detectors are hardwired or run on batteries. Your landlord also won't necessarily tell you whose responsibility it is to change those batteries, even if they're on the top of a 12 foot ceiling and there's no ladder. Hardwired smoke detectors chirp when the power's off, and they're running on battery backup; battery ones chirp when you need to change the battery.

True, mostly, but all landlords know it's their responsibility and most of the ones I've had contact with are very good about swapping out the batteries in the fall.

2) The fire alarm is the landlord's responsibility. It may have a central station function (it calls 911 automatically whenever it goes off) and it may just make a loud noise and you need to call 911 if it's going off. It may frequently malfunction, leaving tenants unsure as to whether they should call the landlord or the fire department when they do not smell smoke. The landlord will not give you any directions on this.

You hear it, you call the FD. Period. If there's a situation where there's a chronic false alarm signal, the FD can issue citations. If it happens a lot, there are ways to get the building management's attention. Usually a chronic false signal is caused by a defective sensor and is quite easily remedied by a technician. As far as not smelling smoke, if it's in someone else's unit, you may not smell it at all.

3) Your landlord probably won't test or replace the smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detectors according to their expiration dates. It's your job to test them, and buy your own if they are not working or placed correctly (a carbon monoxide detector on the ceiling is useless, since CO sinks.)

Your landlord will test them, if it's a small occupancy like a three decker, remind them. If it's a larger occupancy like an Allston brownstone, the alarm company is contracted to take care of all annual testing and maintenance issues. Most landlords know it's on them to maintain the systems. Tenants have no business being involved in the issue. If, as a tenant, you don't like the way things are being run, call the local fire department non emergency number or stop by a local firehouse. The plug-in CO detectors are pretty good, just plug them in and you're on your way. Modern smokes can have a CO built into them. The CO rises if it's part of a hot combustion gas from an improperly vented furnace or whatever.

4) It's technically your landlord's job to do all of these things, but they do not care.

4) It's technically your landlord's job to do all of these things.

There, fixed it for you.

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Someone did. I was walking by

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Someone did. I was walking by and saw the fire trucks and police pull up. The firefighters did an exterior inspection, couldn't see any signs of fire or smoke, and told the cop they'd probably need to call the alarm company to get it shut off.

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We'll see another complaint

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We'll see another complaint when that person discovers hard-wired smoke detectors have battery backup.

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What Happened to Our Fire Chief

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We're still wondering why the city saw fit to remove the fire chief from our neighborhood in West Roxbury. We have this dangerous gas line going through here now and the city won't give us the proper safeguards or tools to mitigate a disaster. For any kind of emergency we have to wait for the chief from Roslindale or some othe part of the city to get here and supervise the effort. What did that property tax increase pay for?

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I was Told

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The Mayor's Neighborhood Coordinator specifically mentioned fire and police protection as the reason why I should be voting in favor of the property tax surcharge. The surcharge passed and we have less protection than before.

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Oh, lady

A lackey of a registered Democrat gave you the sappiest excuse in the book as to why you should hand over more of your money to fund their dominion fetish, and you just bought it?

Please exercise some skepticism going forward. Do you believe the people at South Station who tell you they need to get to Worcester? No? Then why did you believe the "mayor's neighborhood coordinator's" story?

You live in West Roxbury. What do you need additional police protection from? What makes you think this city's fire departments are at all understaffed and/or not in possession of the best tools to fight fires? I don't get the feeling that said "neighborhood coordinator" carried with them a sworn affidavit from a firefighter that they need (blank) item and that it costs "x."

Jakes are holy in this town, and cops are largely respected (says this white male). You don't think that those jobs are already filled by enough proud, eager personnel?

EDIT: I double-checked and saw the part where West Roxbury doesn't have a fire chief anymore. Did this happen before or after the mayor's mouthpiece suggested you have more of your money taken away?

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About District 10

This was done a while back. They gave some of the district to 12 (Canterbury St) and some of it to District 9, I believe.
If a fire happens, and the officer in charge decides he needs a bigger response than just a 'struck box' standard response, he goes to a second alarm. The District chief comes in from either 9 or 12, depending on location, on the box. Division 2 deputy comes in from Centre St. with other help, like a safety chief, evacuation chief (if decided it's appropriate), more engines, ladders and a rescue.

The BFD doesn't strike 'working fires', hasn't in quite a few years, all response is 'on a struck box' then right to a second alarm. That brings in the deputy chief automatically. So, WR isn't being thrown to the 'lack of fire protection' wolves.

The tax surcharge was some 'historic preservation' thing.

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City Council needed a raise,

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City Council needed a raise, illegal aliens needed immigration lawyers, GE needed subsidies, the city needed an Olympic bid & racing....

You see there just isn't money for vital services because other things are more important to the leadership.

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Re-Districting and better training and apparatus

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Staff and apparatus are distributed based on need and availability. All fire trucks have a senior officer, usually a lieutenant or captain who has both the experience and rank to handle all incidents and order extra help if needed. That officer is designated as the commander of the scene.

If the initial call and incident type warrants, the district chief (now handling districts 10 & 12 which is all of Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park, is dispatched. If a "working fire" is declared (actual smoke and fire that is progressing) or the command officer declares a 2nd alarm, both the district chief, and deputy chief of the department rolls. The deputy chief comes in from Egleston Sq at E42. With multiple alarms a "safety chief" is pulled from another district to serve solely in the capacity of assuring site safety.

Anyone who has lived in Boston should also know that in recent years they are throwing more apparatus at a fire right at the beginning to make sure they can knock it down faster.

So the presence of a district chief is not required in all instances and does not assure that the fire or other emergency is resolved quicker. There is sufficient management staff on scene at the arrival fo the first apparatus.

40 years ago there were as many as 13 district chiefs and due to the number fo fires, type of apparatus, and condition of the city, some fo their responsibilities overlapped. District 13 was actually a phantom district that encompassed parts of Dist 7, 8, and 9 and on a fire call 2 chiefs would roll. Since then apparatus, training, and prevention have improved greatly.

Keep in mind all fire apparatus also has a trained EMT (several actually) on board that roll with many sick calls to supplement EMS ambulances. It's that level of training that protects us, not the number of administrators on site.

Did you know that E55 on Washington Street actually responds to many calls in Readville? It's actually faster for them to get there by zipping through East Dedham Sq rather than the response time from Canterbury St. Ditto E49 in Wolcott Sq. coming to that part of West Roxbury.

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You lost me at the end

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Why would Canterbury Street respond to Readville when Wolcott Square and Logan Square are closer?

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Depends

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A "still" or 1st Alarm would see E49, E48, and L28 sent in first in Readville.

However, apparatus assignments do not always send the next-nearest trucks during multiple alarm responses because it would strip the neighborhood of firefighters that are familiar with the territory they serve regularly, including all of the local streets.

In Readville after 49, 48, and 28 are in, your next Engine in is 55 from West Roxbury because it's quicker for them to cut through East Dedham Sq to get there.

In a house with 2 trucks (engine and ladder) only one of them may be sent to the multiple alarm. That way when the "cover" apparatus comes in to take the place of the busy trucks (at the fire station with less trucks and manpower) they follow the home apparatus to the next call. This is especially true if a house is covered by another city/town fire department.

Everything moves up according to a pre-planned system, and for want of a better description it's somewhat like a game of Tetris filling in the spaces.

Stations on city periphery often see this with Dedham covering Hyde Park, Quincy covering Dorchester, and Brookline and Cambridge covering parts of Brighton. You could even see Revere or Lynn in East Boston.

Example... if Ladder 25 (West Rox) is tied up at a fire, detail duty (post fire clean-up and safety) or at a training session, you will likely see Ladder 14 or Ladder 29 from Brighton covering, not Ladder 16 (Roslindale) or Tower/Ladder 10 from JP.

The assignment system is rather elegant and may not be what you'd expect.

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I just don't understand how

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I just don't understand how or why our neighborhood is depending on these lower officers to be commanders "until" a chief shows up while the rest of the city has a chief on the way to a major incident. I just think WR should have the same protections as all the other neighborhoods.

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So

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You want Roslindale to lose "their" chief?

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Add a chief

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No, I don't want any neighborhood to lose its fire protection. My thinking is with the amount we pay in property tax, we should have at least the amount of chiefs or districts to represent each neighborhood. My neighbor told me they eliminated the Mission Hill chief too. That's not good.

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Fire Department at disadvantage if needed for pipeline emergency

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Last November Mayor Walsh, Fire Commissioner Finn and Police Commissioner Evans sent letters asking Spectra Energy, the company building the high pressure pipeline and metering/regulating station in West Roxbury, to provide them with the information they would need in the event of an explosion and/or fire. They specifically asked for a heat release map and information to help our first responders know the best way to evacuate people who survive the blast. Spectra Energy is required to work with the local fire and police departments under the certificate they received from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but they have still not provided that needed information. Our first responders will have their hands tied in the event of a disaster.

Remember, the City of Boston and the Town of Dedham are still in court fighting the pipeline. On Oct. 19 in the D.C. federal court, oral arguments will be heard. We need to thank Walsh's administration for keeping on this.

Also, for the past year several defendants who were arrested for civil disobedience during the construction of the pipeline have been in court asking Spectra Energy to provide the safety plan. Spectra has dragged this out for over a year with several court hearings and by many ploys and has still not provided the safety plan.

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About seven years ago, I had a similar incident happen

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to me. About 7 pm, one of the smoke detectors failed, setting off all of them. My neighbor in the adjoining unit (we share a condex), called the fire department. Once they determined there was no fire, they left.

Now, I had gone directly from the office to an evening engagement, so I didn't get home until almost 11. The only way I could shut off the alarm was to pull the main breakers, so I had no lights. After silencing the din, I called my neighbor - who had left several messages - to calm them down.

Replaced all three smoke detectors the following morning, and also rescued one of my cats, who had gotten herself wedged behind a cabinet in the cellar trying to escape the noise.

Used to scoff at the "replace your smoke detectors every ten years" advice, but this incident made me a believer - the detectors in the house were 24 years old.

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Sheesh. If the beeping fire

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Sheesh. If the beeping fire alarm is bothering her, what about the daily 5:00 a.m. wakeup call from the %*$(#%^&&'ing airplanes going right over her head! I can only imagine!! I live 2 streets down. I can put earplugs in but I have a newborn so that wouldn't be too smart on my part. I've joined numerous petitions in the area to stop the airtraffic noise going right over our heads every morning at 5:00 a.m.

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Oh, cool

You went back in time to before when airplanes existed? Can I borrow your machine? I gotta see that James Brown concert at the Garden for myself.

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I don't recall every being

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I don't recall every being woken up by airplanes continuously going over my head starting at 5:00 a.m. in the past 30 years I've lived at Forest Hills. Until recently.

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Just a bit more Westerly

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I'd say they can head a bit more Westerly at first, over Brookline, then Newton, etc. After they get past 95/128, they can turn more to the South.

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Funny

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I remember people in Forest Hills griping about airplane noise 15 years ago.

Much like my practically next door neighbor City councilor, perhaps your newborn's attempt to learn the circadian rythm is more to do with your lack of sleep at 5 AM. Look, I've been there and I sympathize, but I've been sleeping through the noise of jets in Roslindale all summer.

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Social skills?

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Read the complaint. There's no one to use ones social skills on, as the apartment is unoccupied.

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Fair call

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Since Boston Connect is full of complaints that require immediate police action.

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This Is A True Story...

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A graduate student recently sent an email to everyone in the lab wanting to know which of two telephones in the room would ring, if the food delivery person called the phone number they'd given out. The idea of dialing the number from their own phone hadn't come into mind!

Their generation grew up using text and the Internet; FaceTime and Skype; and rarely if ever using a telephone. They just don't think to use the phone for situations that older people would find; obviously; to be the easiest, fastest, and best way to communicate.

I wonder how much time is wasted every day, by people going back and forth, reading and typing email messages; for issues that could be resolved in seconds over the telephone?

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