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Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery: A Practice that Could Save Your Life

The Albemarle County Department of Fire Rescue reminds the community to change the batteries in smoke alarms to coincide with the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. On Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 2 a.m., clocks will spring forward one hour. This is a good time to change smoke alarm batteries. It’s a simple task that could save your life in the event of a household fire.

As of February 03, 2012, Virginia records show that there were 477 injuries and 60 deaths that resulted from fires in the Commonwealth. The statistics show that a majority of these occur in our homes and involve residential structures. Further analysis has shown that many of these occur due to the lack of smoke detectors or the fact that many were not operational. Many of the non-operational smoke detectors were simply due to a dead battery.

It's not enough to just have smoke alarms installed in your home, you have to make sure they are in working order. Working fire alarms are a first-line defense in reducing the number of home related fire deaths and injuries, and the beginning of Daylight Saving Time is a perfect opportunity for individuals to actively participate in fire prevention by changing the batteries in their smoke alarms.

A working smoke alarm dramatically increases a person’s chance of surviving a fire. About 80 percent of fire deaths nationwide occur in the home and research shows that the chances of dying in a residential fire are cut in half when a working smoke alarm is present. In the event of a fire, properly installed and maintained smoke alarms will provide an early warning signal to your household. This alarm could save your own life and those of your loved ones by providing the chance to escape. Visit the Fire Rescue website for more information...

Smoke Alarm Installation Tips

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, making sure that there is an alarm outside every separate sleeping area.
  • Hard-wired smoke alarms operate on your household electrical current. They can be interconnected so that every alarm sounds regardless of the fire's location. This is an advantage in early warning, because it gives occupants extra time to escape if they are in one part of the home and a fire breaks out in another part. Alarms that are hard-wired should have battery backups in case of a power outage, and should be installed by a qualified electrician.
  • If you sleep with bedroom doors closed, have a qualified electrician install interconnected smoke alarms in each room so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.
  • If you or someone in your home is deaf or hard of hearing, consider installing an alarm that combines flashing lights, vibration and/or sound.
  • Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Ceiling mounted alarms should be installed at least four inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed four to 12 inches away from the ceiling.
  • If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm near the ceilings highest point.
  • Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.

Check Your Smoke Alarms Regularly

  • Test your smoke alarms once a month, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Never "borrow" a battery from a smoke alarm. Smoke alarms can't warn you of fire if their batteries are missing or have been disconnected.
  • Don't disable smoke alarms even temporarily. If your smoke alarm is sounding "nuisance alarms," try relocating it farther from kitchens or bathrooms, where cooking fumes and steam can cause the alarm to sound.
  • Regularly vacuuming or dusting your smoke alarms, following the manufacturer's instructions, can keep them working properly.
  • Smoke alarms don't last forever. Replace yours once every 10 years. If you can't remember how old the alarm is, then it's probably time for a new one.
  • Consider installing smoke alarms with "long-life" (10-year) batteries.
  • Plan regular fire drills to ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do when the smoke alarm sounds. Hold a drill at night to make sure that sleeping family members awaken at the sound of the alarm. Some studies have shown that some children may not awaken to the sound of the smoke alarm. Know what your child will do before a fire occurs.
  • If you are building a new home or remodeling your existing home, consider installing an automatic home fire sprinkler system. Sprinklers and smoke alarms together cut your risk of dying in a home fire 82 percent relative to having neither.

Free Smoke Detector Program

  • The Department of Fire Rescue offers a limited free smoke detector program to bring single family residences into compliance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommendations.  
  • Free smoke detectors are available to homeowners who may not be able to afford/install detectors on their own. 
  • Interested homeowners may contact the Department of Fire Rescue at 434.296.5833 during normal business hours.

Smoke Alarms Save Lives!

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