Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Lifetone Safety Bedside Fire Alarm

Getting a smoke alarm for Julia has been on my list of things to do for quite some time. We don't currently leave her alone in the house, but it occurred to me that before long she'll be a teenager sleeping until noon and I might want to start my day before that. It will be necessary for her to independently wake up in case of emergency.

Much to my surprise, we were invited to sign up for a free Lifetone bedside fire alarm at a picnic for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Hearing Center. A local Boy Scout is working toward his Eagle Scout Award. He raised money to provide about sixty alarms for deaf and hard of hearing children in the area.

Just before Christmas, we received the bedside unit.

Not just a smoke alarm, this thing tells the date and time and acts as an alarm clock.

And the bed shaker.

This little disk shakes the bed so hard Julia could be thrown out!

This alarm does not detect smoke or fire on its own. It monitors the home for the other alarms. When it detects that specific sound, it triggers a 90dB sound as well as the bed shaker and a giant flashing display with the word "FIRE" in all caps. The household smoke detectors have to be T3 which means they give three tones then take a break. The Lifetone unit recognizes that pattern.

We unpackaged the new unit and followed the quick start guide. You simply plug it in and hit the test button on the nearest smoke alarm in the house. Our house alarm screeched. The Lifetone did nothing.

Turns out our existing smoke alarms were not T3. Our house is about seventeen years old. Smoke alarms, I learned from Google, should be replaced every ten years. We were overdue and I wanted the kind that are both hard wired and battery. For some reason I think my house is more likely to go up in flames when the electricity is out. This is probably irrational, but I still like a battery in my smoke alarm.

Our new, T3 smoke alarm.

After replacing all of our old alarms, the Lifetone worked flawlessly. It gives an added thrill when my kitchen activities inadvertently set off the smoke alarm on the first floor. The new alarms communicate with each other which in turn sets off that 90dB alarm and bed shaker. It's a big to-do when mom burns a pizza crust.

Julia wanted to try the alarm clock so we set it one night. I went into her room a few minutes before it went off that morning to see what would happen. When the alarm started the bed shook so hard she rolled out and went stumbling away immediately. I laughed. It looked like she'd been ejected from the bed. We tried it on a subsequent morning and she was already immune. The 90dB horn blared, the bed shook, and she didn't even stir.

So I think we need to schedule a middle of the night fire drill or consider training her to wake up for that sound. But having the Lifetone unit is a step toward peace of mind. I like that she'll be able to take it with her if she ever leaves home. Right now, we have it on good authority that she'll live with us forever. But, you know, it's a good option just in case.

All of the details on this alarm are available at