Check smoke alarms when changing clocks

Published 10:21 am Friday, November 3, 2017

Virginia Department of Fire Programs

This weekend it is time once again to change our clocks as Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 2 a.m. The Virginia Department of Fire Programs reminds Virginians to check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms when you change your clocks this weekend. These devices can only provide lifesaving protection if they are operating properly.

Home fires pose one of the biggest disaster threats in the United States. During 2016, more than 80 percent of all fire deaths occurred within the home. Our Commonwealth lost 80 citizens as a result of residential structure fires last year, about one civilian killed by fire in Virginia every four days. Today’s homes burn hotter and faster, providing less time to exit safely. Due to new construction materials and open floor plans, residents have as little as two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that roughly three out of five fire deaths occur in homes without a working smoke alarm. A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the one thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke. “Smoke alarms are the first line of defense in preventing home fire deaths,” said Virginia State Fire Marshal Brian McGraw. “Testing them regularly to ensure they are working properly, changing the batteries when you change your clocks in the fall and spring, and replacing them entirely every 10 years should be a component of everyone’s home safety plan.” Some newer smoke alarms have 10-year lithium batteries that don’t need to be changed, but many smoke alarms still use nine-volt or AA batteries that need to be replaced.

“The best way to fight fires is to prevent them from ever starting,” said Brian Moran, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. “Be mindful of the fire risks within your home. Together we can prevent unnecessary loss of life and property due to fire by having working smoke alarms, practicing home escape plans and practicing fire prevention efforts every day.” This weekend is also a good time for everyone to take these steps to make sure their household is prepared for emergencies.

Install smoke alarms in key areas of your home

A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire. Put smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Put alarms on every level of the home. Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Hardwired smoke alarms should be installed by a qualified electrician. Some fire departments will install battery-operated smoke alarms in your home at no cost. Contact your local fire department’s non-emergency phone number for more information.

Develop, practice a home escape plan

A home fire escape plan is one of the most basic, but fundamental elements of home fire safety. It can truly make the difference between life and death in a fire situation. A home fire escape plan should include two exits from every room, a path to the outside from each exit, smoke alarms in all required locations and a meeting place outside where everyone in the home will meet upon exiting. The Virginia Department of Fire Programs encourages you to practice your home fire escape plan twice a year. It is recommended to conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.

Never disable a smoke alarm

A smoke alarm is just doing its job when it sounds while you are cooking or taking a shower with lots of steam. If a smoke alarm sounds, do not remove the battery. Instead, open a window or door to clear the air. A chirping sound could mean that the batteries need to be replaced.