False alarm? Dealing with nuisance alarms safely


There’s nothing quite like the smell of burned toast. It lingers for hours and, even worse, it often causes the smoke alarm to sound. Unfortunately, our first reaction is often to remove or disconnect the batteries in alarms that frequently go off. But that is the worst possible action we could take.

Nuisance alarms, as they’re called, usually occur when toast or other cooking items are burned. They can also occur when opening the door of a hot oven or when opening the bathroom door after a hot, steamy shower.

“It’s very important that Albertans do not remove or disconnect the batteries from their smoke alarms,” says Acting Fire Commissioner Spence Sample. “There are simple ways to deal with nuisance alarms.”

The Office of the Fire Commissioner encourages Albertans to use the following tips to keep smoke alarms active but avoid nuisance alarms.

  • Keep ovens and stovetop burners clean.
  • Clean out accumulations of crumbs in the bottom of toasters.
  • Use the fan on the range hood when cooking to help remove steam and combustion particles from the air.
  • Try moving the alarm to another location. Moving a smoke alarm just a few centimeters can often be enough to significantly reduce nuisance alarms.
  • It often helps to fan away the smoke to stop the sound from the smoke alarm.
  • Install smoke alarms with a pause or hush feature that will temporarily silence the alarm and then automatically re-set itself.
  • Replace ionization alarms located near kitchens with photoelectric ones, which may be less likely to activate due to cooking activities.
  • Keep smoke alarms in the best possible working order by vacuuming them annually and replacing alarms that are more than 10 years old.

For more information on fire safety in Alberta, contact your municipality’s fire or emergency service or the Office of the Fire Commissioner at 1-800-421-6929, email firecomm@gov.ab.ca or visit http://www.ofc.alberta.ca and select Public Education tab.