Nancy Roman

But We’re Safe

Maybe I can just ignore it, and I can fall asleep anyway, and not have to deal with it until tomorrow, I think.

It’s such a little thing. Hardly noticeable, I think.

See, Hubby can sleep. I’m being ridiculous, I think.

I can count it, like counting sheep. It will make be drowsy, I think.


Every 15 seconds.

Do you know how many 15 second intervals there are in an hour? 240.

And how about in 2 1/2 hours? 600.

It turns out that 600 is my limit. That’s how much I tolerate before I drag myself out of bed.

detector out of power

Of course, this is only the beginning of the 1:30 AM mystery.

Back when I was a kid, my parent’s house had two smoke detectors. One on the first floor and one on the second. But we’ve gotten more careful.

Instead of inventing ONE smoke detector that can sense smoke anywhere in the house – which you think we just might be able to in the last 50 years – someone has decided that a much better idea would be to install a smoke detector every seven feet. Just in case it is a very small amount of smoke. I guess in case Fido is smoking a joint in the attic.

I know you think I am exaggerating, because I am a writer – and well, because I am a writer.

But our house has SEVENTEEN smoke detectors.

No kidding.

It’s a big house. But it’s not Versailles, for God’s sake.


So now I have to find out which one is chirping.

This means standing under each one – if I can remember where they are – and waiting till the next chirp.

Bedroom is an easy elimination. The sound seems more distant.  So out to the hallway. I am barefoot, so I am hoping than none of the three cats has puked since we went to bed (which would actually be kind of a miracle).

You may be wondering why my husband isn’t involved in the search party. He hasn’t woken. He sometimes doesn’t hear the smoke detector GOING OFF, never mind a brief, tiny chirping. I could wake him, but he couldn’t search the house. He would have no idea if he were standing under the offending unit.

Not the hallway. Why does the fifteen second interval between chirps now become 60 seconds? I do not know the answer. But I know it is the truth.

Not the little room I use as my office.

Not the guest bedroom.

I go downstairs and wait in the kitchen. But no, the next chirp sounds distinctly UP.  That may eliminate four more. Maybe.

Here’s another question. Why, if the battery is dying, but there is enough power to chirp, why oh why can’t that power make a little flag pop out that would say, “IT’S ME!”?

I go back up and into the storage area over my husband’s office. The cats hang here, so I am in grave foot danger.

But then I hear it.

It’s right over my head!  Hooray.

Now that I have identified the culprit, I can take care of this. Only.

Only it is just out of my reach. And I don’t know where the batteries are.

Besides, I need to wake up my husband. Why should I be so annoyed by myself?

He staggers out of bed. He puts on his slippers. It’s safe now that I have tested all the floors like a naked minesweeper, but he never goes barefoot. He doesn’t go to the bathroom barefoot.

I point. He pulls the damn cover off and goes somewhere where he hides batteries.

I go back to bed.

Five minutes later he joins me.

We wait. No chirping. (Although how would HE know?)

And we wait for sleep that doesn’t come.

We turn on the TV.

Which would have drowned out the damn chirping in the first place.

smoke detector graph

*detector toast* songofmypeople


  1. We only have two or three chirpers but I still never know where the sound is coming from when it arrives. And then when it is identified I can’t reach the thing. By the time I get a ladder, I also bring a hatchet with all intentions of smashing the thing to bits, and that’s when Bill steps in/up. I love your hilarious posts! They are so funny because they are all about real life and this one is no exception.


    • The chirping drives me insane. Completely, totally insane. And with 17 in the house, there’s always one with a weak battery.


  2. Other than when I’ve been cooking the only time our smoke alarm goes off is in the middle of the night. Fire? No, of course not… probably an ant. I, too, have spent many a night trying to figure out which one is chirping. While in bed, the chirps seem to come every few seconds. When I get up to identify which alarm is voicing its death chant, they come every three minutes or so.


    • Isn’t it weird how the chirping stops when you are trying to listen for it?


  3. Oh, man, is that ever true! Especially about the slower frequency of the chirps when you are standing there and waiting.


  4. Oh did this one ever hit the spot.

    John and I were in Maine in our little cottage for a three week non-vacation. Neither of us was actually able to take any time off so we were both rather crabby. John had endless conference calls that were all decided at the last minute — so he insisted on keeping the notification noises ON on his phone so whenever we did get 30 minutes “off,” well, we didn’t.

    Then in the last week, when I was well beyond the breaking point, the chirping began. It’s a small house. There is only one smoke detector (conveniently located within a breath of the stove, naturally). So we changed the battery. It continued to chirp. Randomly. Not every 15 seconds; not every 3 minutes — it would chirp twice and then stop for several hours, then chirp again two, three, maybe four times and stop for a day or two. We finally tore it down and bought a new one, that we put up. And you know what? The chirping continued (even after we made a special trip to the dump.

    We think there is another one hidden somewhere that we can’t find. I would consider burning the place down just to stop the damn chirping, but we actually did have a fire two years ago and the insurance company would be suspicious.


    • Is their a chirp-detecting dog you could rent?

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s a resident porcupine, maybe he can fix the problem.


        • Dana

          Is it a friendly porcupine?

          Liked by 1 person

          • As long as he is detector-detecting…


          • Dana

            I like porcupines! If they’re friendly, I feed them apple slices! 🙂


          • He/she is adorable, and they really don’t bother anybody. Unless a dog sticks his nose on them, they are rather sweet. But we have a dog so we admire him from afar. And he hasn’t helped with detecting our detector!


          • Dana

            Yeah, dogs are much to “enthusiastic” for porcupines! 🙂 You have to approach them slowly, and if they don’t turn away from you, you can make friends! 🙂


  5. Oh, we can identify. I have a funny story to share about smoke detectors: my mother lived in an OLD house with very high ceilings. When she was probalby in her late 70’s, early 80’s, her grandson installed her first ever smoke detector W-A-Y up high on one of her bedroom walls. And, yep, you guessed it: when the batteries started dying, it started chirping. In the middle of the night. Mom lived alone and wasn’t physically able to reach it. Except with a broom handle. She completely wiped out that detector…no chance of it detecting ANYTHING else ever again. And, at that point, she really didn’t care.


  6. Dana

    We get around that problem, by not having any! 🙂


    • Is that legal?


      • Dana

        If my mom ever sells, we’ll put some up for the inspector. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Deb

    Ours never chirp unless the power goes out, and then it’s a chirp/wail sound, which means that likely the battery backup is actually dead (I don’t remember the last time we put new batteries in) and likely we would be goners in a fire…


    • Our smoke detectors scream anytime we use the oven longer than seven minutes.


  8. Thank you SO much. I needed that.


  9. we don’t have smoke detectors, but we do have an alarm that every so often goes off or won’t set and then it’s the big search to find the culprit. GRRRRRR!


    • We have a security system that has given us a false alarm a few times. It’s pretty scary at 2AM.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. 17? More evidence that no one will ever level the charge of you being an under performer. I empathize. My pork chops – delicious as they are — serve a primary purpose of assuring us the smoke detectors are in full operation. A fire has yet to visit us…but now I’m wondering where are our batteries? Now I’m worried (ha!). Thank you for your consciousness raising exercise.
    Dan in Chicago.


    • Pork chops and smoke detectors are definitely incompatible. And yes, my husband is a well-known overachiever, but the building codes in Connecticut are also overachievers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Too funny to be a conspiracy. I’ll go with kizmit (?). Travel well.
        Dan in Chicago


  11. A video from a Friends episode regarding your dilemma.


    • Hahahaha…. I don’t remember that episode, but I love it!


  12. This is hilarious and yes, I can relate. It reminds me of trying to track down the smoke detector in my father’s house, which turned out to be the radon detector. My sister and I could NOT get it to shut up, and were ready to drive over it with the car. It required a tiny Philips screwdriver to dismantle the housing and get at the battery. Imagine trying to find that screwdriver in your father’s garage, in the dark, at 2:00 am. Thanks for the laugh, and I love the images you’ve added to this post.


    • Our love/hate relationship with detectors is universal I think.


  13. How I felt this one on my ears. Now I know why I hate those things. Why can’t they make the dying battery sound pleasant, you know chanting monks or something. That chirping? It drives me mad, it drives my Cockatoo even more insane. Worse though, now he makes the sound too.


    • Oh my god. I would have to eat the cockatoo.


      • Nah, you just cover him till he starts whining like a cat. Then you ask if he loves you.


  14. My neighbors house recently caught on fire in the middle of the night. The smoke detectors didn’t go off until after other neighbors were banging on the door to rescue them and got everyone out of the house. Then and only then did the little buggers start to sound, but take a long, hot shower and they all go off. They may save lives, but the other 99% of the time smoke alarms are mostly jerks.


  15. I knew someone whose detector went off when they made popcorn. But ONLY if one small window on the far side of the house was open. Took years to figure that out!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: