I am a short person (5'1", 154 cm) with tall ceilings (15 feet, 457 cm). I have an 8-foot ladder (244 cm). On this ceiling I have a smoke detector whose battery needs to be replaced. On this model, this involves unscrewing the case, removing the D battery from the slot, sliding a new one in (properly aligned, of course), then screwing the case back on. The case lid is attached to the ceiling by several electrical wires that connect to the building's central fire alarm system.

If I stand on the very top rung of the ladder (eg. the apex, the thing you're not supposed to stand on) I can reach the alarm case just barely with my finger tips if I stretch out my hands. But I can't get a good grip on the case to open it.

I can't get a bigger ladder. The 8 ft model barely fits in the elevator as it is. I would rather not rely on bringing taller people home just to change the smoke detectors -- so is there a way for me to change these batteries?

  • Have another one installed, that you can reach, slightly lower on the wall adjacent to the present one – Stan Jan 16 '17 at 7:40
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    @Stan It is important to be on the ceiling for early detection. – paparazzo Jan 16 '17 at 17:42
  • When you say unscrewing the case, do you mean spinning the smoke detector from the base that is attached to the ceiling? Kind of like how this example would be attached to the ceiling, here there are no screws to detached it from the base. google.com/… – Flat Banana Jan 17 '17 at 20:29
  • If your alarm is an older model, you can get someone to help you this time, and replace the alarm with one that has a 10 year sealed battery. They are getting pretty common. Then you only need to install it once and not have to deal with it again for 10 years! – ispaany Jan 20 '17 at 21:45

As it has been stated before without truly reading your request, a specific type of ladder is your best bet along with a "reach tool." The "reach tool" for someone of your height would probably come in handy for many other tasks as well around your house. Depending on where you live, many hardware stores rent ladders for a low couple hour fee. Home Depot is a large name store that does for around $20-$25 for four hours. I have this ladder at my home and when completely folded up it is only 6ft tall and does not require the support of a wall to reach 13ft. For you being 5ft tall, this should be more than high enough for you to reach said smoke alarm.

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The other part of this that you may need is the "reach tool". Many hardware stores sell them as well as Amazon for $15-$20. These will give you the additional three feet that you may require.

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You may qualify for the Smoke Alarm Assistant Programs (ReAlarm)

Two different programs exist for those qualified:
SABRE - Smoke Alarm and Battery Replacement
Smoke alarms for the deaf and hearing impaired

The Smoke Alarm and Battery Replacement (SABRE) program assists seniors and people with a disability who are vulnerable in the case of a fire because they are not able to install and/or maintain their smoke alarms.

Firefighters can visit the residence at an arranged time to install a battery operated smoke alarm or replace existing smoke alarm batteries at no cost. The resident must supply the battery operated smoke alarm or batteries. Firefighters can provide home fire safety advice while visiting premises.

For further information about the program, visit www.fire.nsw.gov.au/page.php?id=306


I think this kind of ladder will be your best bet, as you can not get a tall ladder/stepladder in the lift nor are you allowed to get a ladder up on the outside of the building. (This as per deleted comments.)

The ladder is one that can be bend in 4 short sections, which can be positioned as step ladder, as a platform and as a more traditional ladder. Likely you will not have to buy it, I bet they are for rent in many places.

If this will not do the job, your best bet is to get someone in to do it for you, who can reach the alarm from the top rung of the step ladder you own. Or someone who instals the allarms and might be able to exchange the battery operated one with one that works from the mains.


Proper Ladder Use and Injury Precautions

A Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report on ladder safety showed some startling statistics concerning the frequency and severity of ladder-related accidents in the United States. Every year thousands of people are injured and hundreds are killed. By understanding the causes of ladder accidents the vast majority could be prevented.

More than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment from ladder-related injuries every year Elevated falls account for almost 700 occupational deaths annually These deaths account for 15% of all occupational deaths OSHA believes 100% of all ladder accidents could be prevented if proper attention to equipment and climber training were provided Over the last 10 years the amount of ladder-related injuries has increased 50% According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50% of all ladder-related accidents were due to individuals carrying items as they climbed The most common type of ladder-related injury, with 32%, is fractures

4 Main Types of Ladder Accidents
Ladder accidents are extremely common even though they are entirely preventable. Ladder accidents can come from a wide variety of issues but the following four causes account for the vast majority. If these simple loss prevention tips for each cause are followed, ladder accidents could almost be eliminated.

  1. Selecting the Wrong Type of Ladder
    Like most other jobs, choosing the right tool can make all the difference when it comes to safety and this is the same for ladders. One thing to consider when selecting an appropriate ladder is the ladder’s weight capacity. Each ladder is designed to support a maximum weight limit and if the climber exceeds that limit the ladder could break and cause the user to fall or become injured. Another consideration when selecting the appropriate ladder for a job is the necessary height of the ladder. Many injuries occur due to ladders being too short for a specific task, and instead of selecting a new ladder for the job, workers will place the ladder on something to extend its reach or will stand on the top rung to gain the necessary height. Both scenarios are extremely dangerous and can result in serious injuries.
  2. Using Worn or Damaged Ladders
    Another common contributing factor to ladder accidents is the use of old, worn, or damaged ladders. Like everything else, ladders have a shelf life; after a couple of years the stress of being climbed up and down on causes ladders to break down. Damaged ladders are extremely dangerous as they can easily break while being used and cause serious injuries. To protect yourself from damaged or broken ladders, make sure to thoroughly inspect each ladder before using it. If any damage is found, do not use the ladder until it has been safely repaired to the manufacturer’s specifications or it has been replaced.
  3. Incorrect Use of Ladders
    Human error is by far the leading cause of ladder accidents. Never use a ladder in any other way than what the manufacturer intended it to be used for. Also, do not lengthen or alter a ladder in any way. While using a ladder always maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder to ensure stability. Also, never attempt to reach for something while on the ladder. It is much safer to get off the ladder, move it, and then climb back up.
  4. Incorrect Placement of Ladders
    Make sure that when positioning a ladder, the ground you place it on is level and firm. Ladders should never be placed in front of a door that is not locked, blocked, or guarded. A good practice to ensure a ladder is secure is to always have a helper support the base while a ladder is being used. If the ladder can not be held by someone else, make sure it has an appropriate foot to prevent it from slipping. The feet of the ladder can be staked if you are using a ladder outside and no one is available to support the feet of the ladder.

Put the ladder on a sturdy table.

You get the height of the table added.

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    @kenorb How does put the ladder on a table not answer the question? You get the height of the table added. – paparazzo Jan 16 '17 at 17:39
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    A ladder on a table is not safe, it is always adviced against. – Willeke Jan 16 '17 at 20:52
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    @Paparazzi, the risk of the ladder slipping from a table are much higher than slipping from the ground. The ladder can be too close to the edge on some tables and the table moving. And there is the extra risks when stepping off the step ladder onto (or off) the table. So yes, the rule is NEVER to use a ladder on a table. (But people still do and people still land in hospital because of it.) – Willeke Jan 16 '17 at 20:58
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    Using a ladder on a table is probably more dangerous than not having a smoke detector. – k-l Jan 16 '17 at 20:59
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    @KiranLinsuain A STURDY table would be more dangerous than standing on top step (what OP is currently doing)? – paparazzo Jan 16 '17 at 21:12

If you could search for this product on your neighborhood, it would be great that you can borrow it for this purpose. I would suggest you purchase a similar one and keep it in store as you will have to face this problem frequently for other smoke detectors.

If your smoke detectors are at the center of room, of course you could confuse yourself as how to use this ladder. In that situation either you can search for any obstacle in the room that would obstruct this ladder from gliding away along with your weight or you could tighten the ladder between two floors so that it wont move even if you enter on it. enter image description here

If you are not getting one such ladder, then you could search for obstacles that are stern to keep the ladder that you have on it so that you reach the ceiling. Please do call a second person as this way does not give you much grip to hold and fully depends on your balance.

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    OP stated in prior deleted comments the alarm is not against a wall. Mods are a bit aggressive in deleting comments. – paparazzo Jan 16 '17 at 17:41
  • @Paparazzi Thanks brother for pointing special condition, I will include this instance also in my answer – MANEESH MOHAN Jan 17 '17 at 5:33
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    "you could tighten the ladder between two floors so that it wont move even if you enter on it.". No. No no no no no. This is a great way to get hurt very quickly. – Undo Jan 17 '17 at 18:03

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