As you set clocks back one hour and “fall back” to daylight saving time this weekend, adopt the life-saving habit of also changing the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Eastern Standard Time officially begins on Sunday, November 2, at 2 a.m.
“The risk of dying from a fire in a home is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms,“ said State Fire Marshal Richard Miller. “Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and in the basement. And make sure they work. Smoke alarms usually fail because of missing, disconnected, or dead batteries.”
A report “Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires” (http://www.nfpa.org/research/statistical-reports/fire-protection-systems/smoke-alarms-in-us-home-fires) issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in March 2014 indicates that in 2007-2011, three out of five home fire deaths resulted from fires in home without working smoke alarms.
Miller emphasized that the early warning provided by smoke alarms gives extra time to escape, especially children and senior citizens who are most at risk and need extra seconds to get out safely. According to Miller, the peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. when residents are typically sleeping. An average of three children per day die in home fires and 80 percent of those occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Children are at an increased risk of dying in a home fire because they can become scared and confused when a fire erupts.
The State Fire Marshal along with the NFPA recommends the following:
- Choose a smoke alarm that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
- Hardwired smoke alarms are more reliable than those powered solely by batteries.
- For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms so when one sounds they all sound.
- Use both photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms, also known as dual sensor alarms. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires.
- Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.
- Test all smoke alarms at least once a month by using the test button.
- Replace batteries once a year.
“A family should know and practice two ways out of the house in case of fire,” said Miller. “An escape plan is so important because fire is unpredictable and moves fast. In as little than three minutes, a home can be totally engulfed in flames, so every family member should know how to get out and stay out.”
Conduct a fire drill at night at least twice a year to make sure all family members – especially children, recognize the sound of the smoke alarm, can respond instinctively to its signal and follow an escape plan. Also know the lifesaving practice of crawling low — below dangerously thick smoke and intense heat of a fire.
Escape by closing doors behind you if possible, or know how to open and escape through windows. Quickly gather family members at a designated meeting place outside and then notify the fire department by calling 9-1-1 from a safe location. Help firefighters by remaining together outside the home and directing them to any endangered family members.
For more information on smoke alarms and safety tips, visit the NFPA website at www.nfpa.org/smokealarms.