Spring forward safely: Change clocks forward, change batteries in smoke alarms

Published 10:51 am Sunday, March 13, 2022

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In conjunction with the beginning of daylight saving time – Sunday, March 13 – North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey issued a reminder to change the batteries in household smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

“Changing the battery routinely is an important step to keep your home and everyone inside safe,” said Causey, who is also the State Fire Marshal. “Smoke alarms cut the chances of dying in a fire in half, but they have to be in proper working condition in order to do their job.”

There were 134 fire deaths in North Carolina in 2021 and in many of those incidents, a properly-working smoke alarm was not inside the home. So far this year, there have been 31 fire deaths.

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According to the National Fire Protection Association, families have an average of three minutes to get out of their homes once their smoke alarm sounds due to fire. However, those life-saving minutes only occur when alarms are fully powered and operational.

“Changing your clock either back or forward should be like tying a string around your finger to remember to check your smoke alarm battery,” said Causey. “The two practices need to go hand in hand.”

The NFPA reports three out of every five home fire deaths across the nation resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Dead batteries caused one-quarter of the smoke alarm failures. Hardwired power source problems caused 7% of the failures. The rest of the failures occurred because of defective or improperly installed alarms.

In addition to changing or checking smoke alarm batteries, Causey also offered the following fire preparedness tips:

  • Place a smoke alarm on every level of the home outside sleeping areas. Those who keep bedroom doors shut should place a smoke alarm in each bedroom.
  • Teach children what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear it.
  • Prepare and practice an escape plan – know at least two ways to get out of a room, crawl low under smoke and plan where to meet outside.
  • Keep smoke alarms clean by regularly vacuuming over and around it. Dust and debris can interfere with its operation.
  • Install smoke alarms away from windows, doors or ducts that can interfere with their operation.
  • Never remove the battery from or disable a smoke alarm. If your smoke alarm is sounding “nuisance alarms,” try locating it further from kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once a month to make sure they’re in proper working order.

For more information about smoke alarm safety, visit https://www.ncosfm.gov/injury-prevention/fire-prevention-education/smoke-alarms.

For details on how to check smoke alarm batteries or have an alarm installed, contact a local fire department or the Office of State Fire Marshal at 1-800-634-7854.