Safety For You: “Spring ahead” for fire safety

(WLNS) – As Michiganders prepare to move their clocks forward one hour this Sunday, March 12th at 2am, it’s also time to check the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure homes are protected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If alarms have removable batteries, those batteries should be replaced. Alarms equipped with sealed-in batteries should be tested to ensure they are in proper working condition.

According to research from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), three of every five home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms, and the vast majority of smoke alarm failures are due to dead or missing batteries.

Ten-year smoke alarms require little maintenance, and unlike alarms with removable batteries, they are nearly impossible to deactivate, however they must be tested monthly.

“Regardless of the type of alarm in one’s home, it’s also important to clean all alarms to remove debris that might impede their function and to test the batteries, changing them if necessary,” says Firefighter Michael McLeieer from the non-profit fire safety charity E.S.C.A.P.E.

“Installing and maintaining smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family,” says McLeieer. “This simple, but vital maintenance includes ensuring that all alarms are equipped with working batteries. It’s critical these mitigation appliances remain operational to prevent future fatalities during fire, smoke or carbon monoxide conditions,” according to McLeieer.

Here are some smoke and carbon monoxide alarm tips:

• Test all alarms, including 10-year alarms, at least once a month by pressing the test button to be sure they are working.
• If you have an alarm with a removable battery, be sure to change the battery at least annually. If a battery is starting to lose its power, the unit will usually chirp to warn you. Do NOT disable the unit.
• Vacuum or blow out any dust that might have accumulated in the unit.
• NEVER borrow a battery from an alarm to use somewhere else.
• NEVER paint a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm.
• Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home, including the basement, and in or near each sleeping area.
• Alarms should not be installed near a window or heat / air conditioner vents because drafts could interfere with their operation.
• There are two kinds of smoke alarms. Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. It is best to use both types of alarms in the home.
• When a smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside.
• Families should also develop and practice a home fire escape plan.
• Replace all alarms in your home every 10 years.
• Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing and testing the alarms and replacing the batteries.

Some fire departments and other organizations offer reduced price or even free smoke alarms and may install battery operated smoke alarms in your home at no cost.

Contact your local fire department’s non-emergency phone number or your local American Red Cross chapter for more details on a smoke alarm installation program close to where you live.

>>Michael McLeieer contributed to this report

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