Many homes in New Canaan are protected by automatic alarm systems that incorporate both security and fire protection into the same panel. These systems differ from single station (stand-alone) smoke detectors in many ways, but the most important is that they have one, central back-up battery located in the main alarm panel (usually near the main electrical panel in the home).

Now here is the big rub -- these batteries are generally only good for six to eight hours of use after loss of power. Once the batteries go dead, this means there is no fire protection whatsoever for you and your family.

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Many New Canaan residents were without power for more than seven days. This means you may have been unprotected for at least six of those days.

One solution to this problem is to make sure your alarm system is one of the circuits connected to your back-up generator -- if you have one. If not, it is vital that you have separate, battery-operated smoke and CO (carbon monoxide) detectors (the old-fashioned kind).

Last, now that power has been restored, it is important that all alarm systems be checked and serviced by your alarm company to make sure the batteries are OK. Sometimes if they are older, a prolonged power outage will kill them and they will not recharge once street power is restored.

For questions regarding this matter please contact the New Canaan Fire Marshal's Office at 203-594-3030.