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A vital question for any alarm company to be asking internally is: How many of our clients are using twenty-year-old smoke detectors which have never been tested or serviced?

Such an aged smoke detector should be considered installed beyond its functional and reliable life expectancy and should have been replaced long ago. Think of the unsuspecting subscriber who may erroneously believe the device is still providing “early warning” detection. Sometimes, the client may have been led to believe that the system, upon device malfunction, will automatically alert them to this fact. Still the majority of others simply have no level of awareness or concern of device failure.

Acting in the best life safety interests of the client, and itself, the alarm company must assume the responsibility of retiring outdated detectors through notifying their subscribers.

What happens if the subscriber is unwilling to replace obsolete detectors? Does the alarm company have a duty to replace them for free? The simple answer is no. Of course, this presupposes that the subscriber was made aware of the crucial need for device replacement, preferably acknowledged up front in writing and that the subscriber’s maintenance contract does not mandate the company provide replacements.

It must be emphasized that if a maintenance contract requires a company to test the smoke detectors, and in the process of that testing, the company is unable to quantify the device’s overall functionality or it requires replacement, the subscriber must be immediately warned of the risk.

In the event an alarm company formally advises and warns a client of a need for detector replacement, and the client acknowledges in writing that they choose not to take device replacement action, the subscriber does so at their own peril.

In good conscience, and for obvious life safety purposes, the company should provide written and verbal notification to the local AHJ to increase the likelihood that the subscriber will indeed take corrective action.

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