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Fire Safety in a 2-Story Home

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    LESLIE: Angela in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    ANGELA: I am purchasing a beautiful 1940s home. It’s two stories with a basement and I was just wondering you guys’ thoughts on the second floor. Basically, there’s a very tiny staircase that goes up to the second floor and I’m worried about if there was a fire, something that blocked the stairway. Are there products out there that you can purchase – well, yeah, I don’t know, a roll-down ladder or some kind of alarm or something? What do you guys know about that?

    TOM: Sure. There’s all sorts of things. In terms of egress, if you have just the staircase and you want another option, you could always get a chain ladder that hooks over the window and you drop it down the outside wall of your house. Problem with those, though, is that in – from a practical matter, in a fire you have black smoke filling the house. It’s really hard to find that ladder and set it up.

    LESLIE: Some of them are actually built into window-box units that look like a decorative window box that you can attach to the exterior of your home. And it would be right outside of the window. But then again, that’s not really ideal if it’s a kid’s room.

    ANGELA: Right, right. Yeah. And that’s – it’s just me and two kids and we all have our own room, so …

    TOM: So I would make sure that you have a good-quality smoke-alarm system. You know, if you can afford to use one that’s centrally monitored, I think that’s best because now you know the system – the home is being monitored 24/7. And you could add carbon-monoxide protection to that and even flood protection to that and temperature protection to that all in the same system.

    ANGELA: Is there some kind of system that – I don’t want to have to hard-wire it in the house. But is there a system that maybe uses Bluetooth or some things that have to talk to each other?

    TOM: Yes. If you have hardwired smoke detectors now – so if you have a detector that’s already wired – not battery-powered but hardwired – you can replace that with a Nest Protect. And the Nest is the brand, Protect is the detector. And the Nest Protect is a combination dual-technology smoke detector, so it works for both with a photoelectric sensor and an ionization sensor, which basically means it’ll detect smoldering fires and flash fires but it also protects you against carbon monoxide.

    Now, what I like about this system is if you also install it with the Nest Thermostat, if either of those things were to happen – if you had a fire or you had a carbon-monoxide alert – it will actually turn the thermostat off, which is important. Because if it’s carbon monoxide, the most likely source in the home is the furnace or the boiler, depending on what kind of system you have. And if you have a fire, running that furnace during the fire helps to spread the smoke.

    You definitely can install it yourself. It’s not difficult. Nest provides great instruction on how to do that. In fact, I just replaced – I have a centrally monitored system in my house but I decided – we also had, sort of as a redundant system, two hardwired detectors: one on the first floor, one on the second floor. I’ve just replaced those with the Nest Protect. And I’m really happy with it. I think it’s a really good system and just gives me some added peace of mind.

    ANGELA: OK. Well, thank you so much. That’s a great idea. I think that’s the way I’m going to go.
     

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