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It started last night.  That infernal beeping, the sound not of “there’s smoke and there must be fire so get out.”  Rather the sound of “a battery is dying in one of the six smoke detectors in the house.  Go on a treasure hunt to figure out which one.”

Kid #3 is phobic about fire and the sound of the smoke detectors.  When she was three, we were evacuated due to a raging wildfire in the vicinity.  Everything turned out just fine and all we did was take a little field trip over to the grandparents’ house, but the experience seemed to have traumatized her so severely that she can’t tolerate fire of any type.

About twice a year, I cook something that spatters grease, or forget to clean the oven for a few months or, G-d help me, actually burn something in the oven which sends the smoke detectors into a frenzy.  #3 retreats to the garage and stays there for hours after the situation has been dealt with, just to be sure.

So there’s that.

Then there’s the fact that we’re living in a new place.  I have no idea what the smoke detectors sound like here or how sensitive they are.  None of us have learned the beep and chirp subtleties yet.

So that doesn’t help.

When the beeping started last night, I thought it sounded strange.  Not the alarm horn sound for sure, but not the incessant chirp of a dying battery either.  I dragged out the stepstool to investigate.

The geography of our home is such that the upstairs three smoke detectors are fairly close together as well as close to the stairwell.  Beeps and chirps (and meows and snide comments) echo.  Trying to determine which detector was actually beeping proved effing frustrating.  Just when I thought I’d narrowed it down, the sound shifted.

Are you kidding?  Now two are beeping?  Or is the second one upset that I pulled the first one out of the ceiling?  I dragged the stepstool between the two, used an entire can of compressed air to rid them of any dust, and swapped out batteries over and over again.

The beeping wouldn’t stop.

Kid #3 was in the garage.  She wasn’t taking any chances.

I finally drove to the nearest grocery store still open at 10:30pm and bought more batteries.  Came home, did the stepstool polka again.  And that infernal beeping continued.  I wondered how late Walmart stayed open because that was my only option for obtaining a replacement smoke detector at (now) 11pm.  We weren’t going to be able to sleep with the beep-beep-beep-beep going off every 60 seconds.

Finally, I googled “I changed the batteries but my smoke detector won’t stop beeping.”  Wasted another 15 minutes trying to reset the damn things.  And buried deep in the thread of one of the results was this gem: “Make sure it’s the smoke detector beeping and not the carbon monoxide detector.”


I yanked that sucker off the wall and read the legend on the back.  Four short beeps every 60 seconds indicates the detector has reached the end of its lifespan.  Date manufactured?  2007 Jan 29.  Guaranteed lifespan?  Seven years.

Replacement of the exact model was less than $20 on Amazon with free Prime shipping.  Arrival Sunday.

The beeping stopped and we could sleep, so thank you Internet.

Moral of the story:  It might not be the smoke detector.  Read the back of your carbon monoxide detector and test it every week/month.  Buy at least one backup smoke detector and one backup carbon monoxide detector just in case yours turns into “The Telltale Heart” late one night.

Lesson learned.