This weekend marks the end of daylight saving time and clocks will be turned back one hour on Nov. 5. This occasion also serves as a good time to check some important equipment in your home that could be the key to giving you and your family extra time when it counts.
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) annually promotes the “Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries” campaign, which encourages the public to change their smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries when turning back clocks in the fall and ahead in the spring.
According to an NFPA study released in 2021, almost three out of five home fire deaths were caused by fires in properties with no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that failed to operate.
The American Red Cross says home fires claim more lives every year than all natural disasters combined, and having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.
The NFPA study backs that up, finding the risk of dying in reported home structure fires is 55% lower in homes with working smoke alarms.
When smoke alarms failed to operate, it was typically because of disconnected or non-working power sources, with battery problems being the most common.
Modern smoke alarms can be powered in different ways and those with non-replaceable, 10-year batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. The NFPA says if the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away, even if it has not been 10 years since it has been installed.
If you currently do not have functioning smoke alarms in your home, now is the time to install or repair them.
Those with appliances that use wood or natural gas for fuel should also use this time to install or replace batteries on any carbon monoxide detectors in the home.
The sooner an alarm alerts you to a fire, the sooner you can get out. Because smoke rises, the International Association of Fire Fighters recommends smoke alarms be mounted high on walls or ceilings and should be placed no more than 12 inches away from the ceiling. The lower your smoke detectors, the longer it will take for the smoke to reach the sensor to activate the alarm.
They should also not be placed near windows, doors or air ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
In addition to changing the batteries every six months, the NFPA says to test all smoke detectors, regardless of their power source, at least once a month to make sure they are functional.
The NFPA website, nfpa.org, has a wealth of resources on how to keep your family safe from fire. Local fire departments can also provide advice and resources for fire alarm installation and fire escape plans for your home.