As you set clocks back one hour and "fall back" to daylight saving time this weekend, the State Fire Marshal says to adopt the life-saving habit of also changing the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Eastern Standard Time officially begins on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 2 a.m.
"The risk of dying from a fire in a home without working smoke alarms is twice as high as in a home that has working smoke alarms," said State Fire Marshal Rich Miller. "Be sure to have working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and in the basement. 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."
A report "Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires" issued by the National Fire Protection Association in Sept. 2011 indicates that from 2005 to 2009, approximately two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
Smoke alarms usually fail due to missing, disconnected or dead batteries. Officials say people often remove or disconnect batteries because of nuisance activations, such as a chirping sound that warns of a low battery.
The State Fire Marshal, along with the NFPA, recommends the following:
- Choose a smoke alarm that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
- Install smoke alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
- 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.
- Buy newer models of smoke alarms with lithium batteries that will last the life of the unit.
- 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.
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, Miller says. Children are at an increased risk of dying in a home fire because they can become scared and confused when a fire erupts.
"Practicing two ways out in a home fire escape plan is critical because fire is so unpredictable and moves fast," said Miller. "In as little than three minutes, a home can be totally engulfed in flames, so every family member should know how to react quickly and calmly."
Miller says to 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.
When a fire occurs, Miller says don't delay -- get out quickly and stay out. Escape by closing doors behind you if possible, or know how to open and escape through windows. Have a collapsible emergency escape ladder stored inside near upper floor windows and know how to use it. Quickly gather family members at a designated meeting place outside and then notify the fire department by calling 911 from a safe location.
Miller says to 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.