Change your clock, change your batteries

Tomorrow’s 2 a.m. change to daylight-saving time may double as a life-saving measure if homeowners remember to change the batteries in their smoke alarms when setting their clocks one hour forward.

“I know folks are busy with the everyday activities of life. That’s why it’s so important to get into a routine of replacing the batteries in your standard smoke alarm once a year — perhaps a birthday, anniversary, or in the spring when you change your clocks,” said Theresa MacLennan, public educator for Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue.

Those who have 10-year lithium battery-powered smoke alarms installed in their homes, however, do not need to change the batteries every year. But instead should replace the entire unit after the 10-year period. And although standard smoke alarms take regular batteries, they too need to be replaced after 10 years.

According to the Washington Public Fire Educators, the vast majority of fire deaths occur in residential settings. Smoke inhalation rather than burns causes most of these deaths. Smoke contains dangerous chemicals that can lull occupants into a deeper sleep or lead to confusion. This disorientation can seriously compromise the occupants’ abilities to escape safely. Smoke alarms/detectors provide early warning of fire and allow occupants the time to escape. However, many devices fail to activate in a fire due to poor or non-existent maintenance. 

Washington Public Fire Educators offer the following tips:

• Install and maintain a smoke alarm/detector on each level of the home as well as in each sleeping area.

• If the home is equipped with hard-wired smoke alarm/detectors, check to ensure the device has a battery back-up for protection during power outages.

• Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on placement. Read the instructions thoroughly to ensure proper placement away from walls, heat registers and other air displacement devices.

• Test smoke alarms/detectors on a monthly basis.

• Replace smoke alarm/detector batteries once a year. 

• Vacuum and/or dust smoke alarms/detectors at least once each year.

• Replace smoke alarms/detectors every ten years.

• Consider installing ten-year lithium battery-operated smoke alarms.

“Working smoke alarms in the home increase your chances of surviving a fire by 50 percent,” MacLennan said. “A properly functioning smoke alarm acts like your nose, especially when you are tucked in bed sound asleep or dozing in front of the television. By getting into the routine of testing your smoke alarm monthly and changing the batteries annually, you can be confident that in the event of a fire, your smoke alarm will provide your family with time to react and get out of your home in plenty of time.”

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