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Change clocks, check smoke detectors Sunday

This Sunday, March 11, marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, the practice of setting the clocks forward one hour from standard time during the summer months, and back again in the fall, in order to make better use of natural daylight.

First observed in the United States in 1918, prior to the Uniform Time Act of 1966 mandating schedules within established time zones, localities were free to choose when to began and end each DST session. Although DST now begins at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November, a large majority of the nation will make any clock adjustments the night before.

There have also been other more accurate terms suggested to replace the official not entirely accurate phrase, since no daylight is actually saved, with each rejected as less politically desirable.

What has proven desirable is the practice of checking and changing smoke alarm batteries when we change our clock settings.

“It’s the perfect time check your smoke detectors,” said Dare County Fire Marshal Steven Kovacs. “The big thing with any time change is to make sure you have a working smoke alarm in the house.

According to Kovacs that should involve more than just one device. The recommendation is for one smoke detector inside and one outside each bedroom with at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home.

“That’s because research has shown that working smoke detectors save lives,” explained Kovacs. 

Kovacs went on to say that monthly tests and changing batteries at least once a year is the preferred schedule. A few minutes spent that could save a life.

Kovacs said also that any device 10 years old or older should be replaced with a similar device. Each unit has a date of manufacture on the back and it should be a simple check while changing batteries.

It’s also important to note that homes built after June 1999 require an interconnected alarm system. That allows all units in the system to activate simultaneously. Unfortunately, be it from lack of understanding or attempts to cut costs, some homeowners have replaced defective units with a battery unit. A practice that circumvents the integrity of the system.

“It’s important to keep that interlink in place,” Kovacs continued. “The battery units are a little cheaper that the electric hard-wired units but the hard-wired systems are designed so that if one goes off they all go off.”

Kovacs said again that the important key is having a working smoke alarm, adding that there have been a couple of recent fires with no alarm in place or alarms with no batteries.

According to U.S. National Fire Protection Association estimates nearly two-thirds of all home fire deaths take place in properties without working smoke detectors.

“Today’s fires burn quicker and hotter,” Kovacs continued. “Research has shown when there is a fire in the home and an alarm goes off you only have about two minutes to get out and survive.”

Preparation can be a key to making the most of those two minutes. Before you have a fire establish an Escape Plan. Then, if there is a fire, remember to follow the plan, get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1.

As you exit the structure crawl low under smoke. If closed doors or handles are warm, use a second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch. Once outside go to a pre-determined meeting place and then call for help.

In the event smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call 9-1-1. If you cannot get out a window open it and wave a brightly colored cloth or use a flashlight to signal for help.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration web site, in 2017 there were 79 North Carolina home fire fatalities reported by the news media. So far this year, just a ten weeks into 2018, there have been 22 home fire fatalities reported.