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Don't get burned by a salesperson

Have you been invited to a free steak dinner, signed up for a drawing for a free prize or completed a questionnaire "inviting" fire protection salespeople to your home? You’re not alone. But, be careful you don’t eat a "free steak dinner" for the price of a whole side of beef. This invitation may cost you $2,000.

A big push in fire protection sales these days is heat detectors. But beware – don’t get burned by fire protection salespeople who oversell the truth. Some fire protection salespeople will try to convince you smoke detectors don’t work. These salespeople will say that most people die in fires from extreme heat, deadly gases and lack of oxygen, not smoke inhalation or flames. And, they will say that fire officials and associations endorse heat detectors instead of smoke detectors.

But what these salespeople do not tell you, but fire department officials will, is that smoke is the earliest detectable indicator in virtually all life-threatening fires in the home. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has found that "heat detectors often provide no advance warning" and that "smoke detectors provide significantly earlier warning of potentially dangerous conditions resulting from a residential fire than do heat detectors." In addition, most national fire associations recommend smoke detectors over heat detectors for residential use. The minimum standard of safety is to place a smoke detector on each level of the house and outside of each sleeping area. Smoke detectors also are significantly less expensive, some costing only about $10 each.

It is true that heat detectors do not require batteries or electricity. But if you change smoke alarm batteries at least annually, check them monthly, and replace your smoke detectors every 10 years, smoke alarms should keep you safe.

If you are convinced you need a heat detector or you want smoke detectors, shop around. Pushy salespeople may charge $2,000 to $3,000 for their products and services while you may be able to purchase smoke detectors for your entire home for less than $50. Call your local fire department for advice on what to buy or where to buy it. Check local businesses for which products they sell and how much they cost. You may find a wide range in prices.

Don’t get burned by a pushy fire protection salesperson who is trying to alarm you by "blowing a lot of smoke." Protect your pocketbook while you’re protecting your home and family. Contact your local fire department at (701) 241-1540 or call the State Fire Marshal’s Office at (701) 328-5555 with your questions and concerns about your fire protection needs. You also may call the Consumer Protection Division toll free at 1-800-472-2600. You can count on professional firefighters, and remember, it’s always a good idea to do business with local, reputable businesses.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division investigates allegations of misleading or deceptive practices in the marketplace. Investigators also mediate individual complaints against businesses. If you have a consumer problem or question, call the Consumer Protection Division at 328-3404, 328-3409 (TDD), or toll free at 1-800-472-2600.

Information on this page was provided by the North Dakota Attorney General's Office.