Test It Tuesday - have you tested yours?

This isn't a terribly festive post, but it's a post I've finally got round to writing, and publishing on a Tuesday!

It's last November.  About midnight, and I'm sitting at my desk faffing about on the internet before I turn off my laptop and head to bed.  This was in our old flat, which has a long living room, with my desk at one end and the television at the other.

I hear a pop.  Just a little pop.  It's dark, it's cold, and a bit scary as I can't work out what the noise is.

I hear a hiss.  Definitely coming from the television.  I go over to the television, it's turned off (except the Sky+ box which is always on) and all the other electrical things are off.  There are more hisses.  I go into the bedroom (opposite end of flat, although bear in mind it's a 2-bed flat, so not exactly very far away at all) and wake up Ben as I'm concerned about the hissing.

Ben is less concerned, tells me to turn stuff off, unplug it, and leave it.

I go back into the living room, and there is smoke coming from the back of the television.

I shout for Ben and run back to the bedroom to make sure he's up.  He is, and we run into the living room where there are now flames coming from the back of the television.

I run into the kitchen where (thank goodness) we have a fire extinguisher.  When we bought it I took off all the plastic safety things, thinking that if I ever needed it, I wouldn't have time to find some scissors.  Thank goodness I did.  I throw the fire extinguisher at Ben, who uses it and manages to put the fire out.

We then just look at each other.  

I then phoned my mum to wake her up and tell her, as quite frankly in these situations you need your mum.  Having confirmed that both Ben and I were fine, I told her I'd stay in touch and then Ben phoned 999.  

We were told to go and wait outside for the fire brigade.  As we were waiting outside, a tenant in another flat in our block came and spoke to us, at roughly the same time as our fire, his Sky+ box had caught fire, he'd picked it up (!!) and thrown it out the patio doors!  So we were all a bit concerned by this point.

The fire brigade arrived in seconds (very reassuring!) and checked over all the flats.  They said it was safe to go back in and praised our thinking in having a fire extinguisher ready to use.

Then we got a massive slap on the wrists.

Had our smoke detector gone off?

Erm, no, it hadn't.  Up to that point, I hadn't thought about it, but now I was asked, I realised it hadn't gone off.

A fireman tested our smoke detector.

It didn't work, as the battery was dead.

I felt so unbelievably stupid.  How often had I read about testing smoke detectors?  How many times had I watched programmes on television about house fires and the importance of testing smoke detectors?  How many times have I done the fire safety badge with Brownies, including a visit to the fire station and been told to check my smoke detector?

The fireman immediately gave us a replacement battery and fitted a second smoke detector in case the first one had a fault.  We were then told about Test It Tuesday, to test our smoke detectors every Tuesday.

The fireman in charge reckoned there had been a problem with the electricity supply to the flats, and the local electricity company came out and turned off the power, saying they'd come back in the morning to start fixing the problem.

The fire brigade left, reminding us to Test It on Tuesday.

Having quickly updated my parents, Ben and I sat on the sofa, thinking.  You can't help thinking about what could have happened.  Our television was right next to the window and we have long curtains, they could have caught fire in seconds and then the fire would have spread, or what if I'd been in bed (it was midnight after all) and hadn't heard the popping and hissing, and the smoke detector hadn't worked and so when would we have noticed the fire....?!  We then stopped thinking about this (I was pretty scared) and headed to bed.

In the morning, the electricity company came to sort everything out.  There had been an electrical surge (something which is very rare) and so too much electricity came into the flats and items plugged in just couldn't cope.  As it was an electrical problem (and not anyone's fault) we had all damaged items replaced - Ben's games consoles, cables, light bulbs, a new television (newer model!).  These new items came within 48 hours, the workmen we dealt with were incredibly efficient, courteous and helpful.  The top flat had got the biggest 'hit' of electricity and every item that was plugged in (even if not turned on) was damaged, so they had to have everything (fridge, washing machine, kettle etc) replaced.

The garden area in front of the flats was dug up, and although the electricity was back on within a day or so, it took quite a while to mend all the damage outside and underground - think it was about a fortnight before it all looked back to normal.  Thankfully, it was only damage to physical objects, no people were hurt and all the flats were physically fine (ours just had a burn mark on the carpet from melted cable!).

Since then, I have been incredibly passionate about fire safety and testing smoke alarms.  Ben and I have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in the kitchen, and a fire extinguisher in the bedroom.  The fireman chief person explained to us that the little extinguishers are designed to clear a path in front of you so you can escape - that's why we have one in the bedroom (so we could get out of the room and on to the balcony) and one in the kitchen (so we could leave by the front door).  We know how to use the fire extinguishers and their safety plastic things have been removed.  Nothing is left plugged in overnight (even if it's turned off at the wall) and things like phone chargers are turned off as soon as the item is charged, we don't leave items on overnight.  

When did you last test your smoke detectors?  If your smoke detector is mains-operated, what happens if there's a power cut?  Are you sure it would work?  Could you get out of your home in an emergency?  Do you have a second way out?  Is there a fire blanket in your kitchen?

Thankfully, what happened to us is minor - no one was hurt and everything damaged was replaceable.  But it was still incredibly scary.  I will also never forget how stupid I felt when the fireman pointed out my useless smoke detector.

So please, go and test your smoke detectors, then text your friends and ask them to test theirs too.  It takes a matter of seconds and really could save lives.  I'm going to test mine now.


  1. I tested ours and bought detectors for both my daughters flats after a tragedy in my home town a couple of months ago - a tumble drier caught fire in the night and 2 young men died. Good advice about the fire extinguishers.

    1. So sorry to hear about those young me - fire is a very scary and powerful thing. Several of my relatives received fire blankets for Christmas last year (how festive!) and when I stay somewhere new I always work out the best escape route.

  2. OH good gracious! thank you for sharing this - and how very scary for you! you sound like you kept a very cool head though well done, and I will be testing mine when I get home tonight (albeit Wednesday!). so sorry that happened to you but you did a great job and I'm really glad no one was hurt - good on you for writing this post, smoke alarms are one of those things you just take for granted over time jenny xxx

    1. I think you're right, people definitely take smoke detectors for granted, which is fine as long as you know they work!

  3. Thank you for this post - so important that we do test and check. It's encouraged me to get some fire extinguishers too. Funnily enough, Thomas came home from a conference this week adamant about fire safety. He'd met a guy who lost everything in a house fire after an accident while builders were working. So combined with this post we'e now a very fire-conscious home.

    1. Glad to hear you're now fire-conscious, but sorry about the man who lost everything. Fire is so powerful, and yet we sort of take safety precautions (like testing smoke detectors) for granted. They truly can save lives.


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