Problems with smoke alarms that are too sensitive

Written by michael davidson
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Problems with smoke alarms that are too sensitive
A smoke alarm can cause problems if it is too sensitive. (fire detector on ceiling image by StarJumper from

Smoke alarms are a necessity in any home or building to provide a level of protection against an unexpected fire. While a smoke detector will not prevent a fire itself, it will alert the occupants of the building to either a fire or the danger of one starting due to heat or smoke. While a smoke alarm is a useful tool in home safety, there is also a danger of false alarms, which can result in multiple problems.

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Overly sensitive smoke detectors will cause frequent false alarms, and the continuous noise of the alarm can cause problems for neighbours if you live in an apartment or share an office building. Smoke and fire alarms are meant to be loud and shrill so there is no mistake the alarm is going off, but false alarms will annoy occupants instead of warning them about an impending safety risk. Frequent false alarms can also lead to noise complaints that could lead to fines and other reprimands.

"Cry Wolf" Effect

"The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is a classic story about a young shepherd who was supposed to watch a flock of sheep to prevent wolves from eating them. He would get bored and cry "Wolf!" to amuse himself and watch the reaction of the villagers. One day, a real wolf appeared, and when the boy cried out, no one came to help him. Just as the villagers were desensitised to the threat of a real wolf, a sensitive smoke alarm can desensitise people in a building to the risks of an actual fire and result in a slow response to a very real threat.

Emergency Services

Some alarm systems are programmed to contact the fire brigade immediately upon activation, and a number of false alarms due to sensitive detectors causes multiple issues. Not only can multiple false alarms result in a slower reaction from the fire brigade, but the owner of the building also can be fined extensively for wasting the fire brigade's time. Firefighters could also respond to the false alarm and show up late to an actual fire as a result, so adjust or replace the sensitive detector as soon as possible.

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