Reading the Worcester News in my van this morning I was struck by the two fires that were reported: the one on the top floor of the Crowngate shopping centre car park, where a Fiesta caught fire and damaged two other vehicles close by, and an account of a roof falling in due to an ongoing fire at a house on Popert Drive (with a video on the website to go with it).
As someone in the decorating and painting trade, I often have a ladder with me, spending more time in the giddy heights near the ceilings of properties than the actual inhabitants of that home. Often in our domestic painting and decorating duties, I will test the fire alarms if ever we are near to them and with the owners permission, especially if they are infirm or elderly. Most often I am rewarded with an deafening shriek before the thing falls silent, but at least it is working. On a few occasions, the device remains silent, and even after replacing the battery it did so still, so I purchased a new one on the client's behalf and installed it after we had finished the ceiling work. (On one occasion, the sensor had some paint across the front of it: so some previous Worcester painter had come in and obviously not removed the unit before painting the ceiling. Incredible really).
It's no great obligation on my part to go this, but I know how bad I would feel if the worse was to happen and I had been at the premises a few weeks before and not taken just a few minutes to check that the fire alarms are in working order. It would pay if we were all a bit more cautious I suspect.
The same is also true of carbon monoxide alarms - and to me this is more terrifying than fire as there is absolutely no warning. I know two people who have been awoken by these alarms over the years, and whilst I can't say if it would have saved their lives or if they would have woken up feeling ill and tired, it is certainly worth pressing the button to test every few weeks. (Personally, I have a couple of each in my home - partly due to me doing renovation work for clients who wanted everything removed when they were restructuring a property - why throw a working alarm away?)
So remember to test the alarms frequently, and if you can't do it yourself, ask someone with a ladder!