The Michigan Bureau of Fire Services (BFS) is reminding consumers to change batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when changing their clocks to Daylight Saving Time (setting clocks ahead one hour) on March 11.
Having working smoke detectors with fresh batteries can provide a family with crucial extra seconds to escape a burning home.
“We recommend testing your smoke alarm on a monthly basis and changing batteries once a year. If you didn’t change your batteries during the time change in the fall – now is the time to do it,” Karen Towne, acting state fire marshal said. “Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Having working smoke alarms is a simple, effective way to prevent home fire deaths.”
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 373,900 home structure fires per year during 2005-2009. These fires caused an annual average of:
- 2,650 civilian fire deaths
- 12,890 civilian fire injuries
- $7.1 billion in direct damage
According to Towne, home fires peaked around dinner hours of 5-8 p.m.; however home fire fatalities are most likely to occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most families are sleeping.
“A working smoke alarm can cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. They can give the critical extra seconds needed for residents, particularly children and the elderly, in order to get out safely," Towne said.
Children are at increased risk of dying in a home fire because they often become scared and confused when a fire erupts, she said. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that a family with children conduct a fire drill at night at least twice a year to determine how responsive they are to the alarms and how capable they are of following an escape plan.
"Make sure children recognize the sound of the home’s smoke alarms and teach them to respond instinctively to its signal. Also, create at least two different escape routes from every room and practice them monthly with the entire family," Towne said. "Be sure all family members know the lifesaving practice of crawling below the dangerously thick smoke and intense heat of a fire."
All capable members of the family must learn how to open windows and remove screens or security bars. Purchase, plan, and practice using a collapsible emergency escape ladder that can be stored inside near upper floor windows.
“Almost three-quarters of Americans do have an escape plan; however, less than half actually practiced it,” said Towne. “It’s important for families to practice the plan so everyone knows to get out as quickly as possible. Your firefighters are specially trained and equipped to rescue your family and pets, as well as to protect your possessions. Help your firefighters by remaining together outside the home.”
Thefirefighters also encourage homeowners to install at least one fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen and know how to use it. An all-purpose fire extinguisher that is listed by, and carries the mark of an accredited testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratory is recommended. Read all instructions carefully and mount the fire extinguishers for easy access. Make sure adult family members know the proper use as well as the limitations of these important fire safety tools.