Smoke Detector Warning Under Fire

Smoke Detector Fire AdviceNot surprisingly, the product warnings accompanying smoke detectors are extensive.  Smoke detector manufacturers have been held liable in lawsuits when the detector failed to work properly and harm resulted to residents.  (This short article on a law firm website provides a few details.)

I bought a replacement smoke detector last week at Home Depot and, as always, enjoyed reading the product warnings and instructions.

They provided a lot of good advice, but surely the first item of “WHAT TO DO WHEN THE ALARM SOUNDS” could have been worded better:

Alert small children in the home.

Maybe I’m quibbling, but I have three issues with this instruction.

First, the word “Alert” seems too unemphatic.  “Hey kids, the house is on fire.  Just wanted to let you know.”

Second, why alert only small children?  Don’t all children deserve to be alerted that the house may be on fire?

Third, why limit the alerting to children at all?  I picture the homeowner whispering: “Kids, the house is on fire.  Shhh.  Don’t wake Grandma.”

I suggest the following substitute:

WHAT TO DO WHEN THE ALARM SOUNDS  

• Scream “Everyone run for your lives!”

Just kidding.  Here’s my free, serious expert products liability/linguistics legal suggestion:

Immediately inform all persons in the house.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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