Daylight Saving Time begins March 11. This has become a traditional time to test and check the batteries of the lifesaving devices in our home. Here’s information from safety experts to be sure we’re doing it right.
Some experts name the end of Daylight Saving Time in the fall as the time to test and change the batteries of our smoke alarms and CO detectors. Doing it twice a year is even better, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so make it a habit when Daylight Saving Time begins, as well. You’re going to be fiddling with your microwave clock, alarm clock and other gadgets—so put those alarms on the list, as well.
First things first. You do have smoke alarms in your home, right? If not, get them now. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that two-thirds of all home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms, or where smoke alarms are not working.
Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, and near all sleeping rooms. This includes the basement, an often-overlooked spot. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.
The NFPA also reports that when smoke alarms fail to alert residents to a fire, it is usually because the batteries are dead or missing. So test your smoke alarm frequently—the NFPA suggests doing so once a month. Replace the batteries at least once a year; twice is even safer. Some smoke alarms are equipped with a lithium battery that is not replaceable. The NFPA instructs, “Smoke alarms with nonreplaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, a warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.”
The experts at FEMA also warn that smoke alarms can simply wear out and be less reliable. They should be replaced every 10 years even if you haven’t noticed a problem.
Don’t forget your CO detector
Not as many people in American have CO detectors, but these devices, too, can save your life, and should be properly installed and maintained. The CDC reports that more than 400 people in the United States die every year from unintentional CO poisoning.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced when fuel is burned in cars, small engines, fireplaces, stoves, grills, furnaces, or gas refrigerators. It is very dangerous for people and pets. CO poisoning causes a number of symptoms that might seem perplexing—dizziness, headache, weakness, chest pain and confusion. And people can die before they ever notice symptoms, especially if they breathe the gas while they are asleep.
Consumers are advised to prevent CO poisoning by having all the appliances above properly serviced each year, and by using them safely as recommended. Avoid using portable flameless chemical heaters indoors, and never operate a generator, camp stove or charcoal grill indoors.
But even in a well-serviced home, something could go wrong. Take the next step to protect your family by installing battery-operated CO detectors. Install a detector on each level of the home and outside each sleeping area. Follow the instructions that come with the detector you purchase. Test the detector once a month, and change the batteries each year (or twice a year) just as you do with your smoke alarms.
Protect senior loved ones from these dangerous home hazards
Older adults are at higher risk of death by fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Ask senior friends and relatives if they’ve installed smoke alarms and CO detectors. In many communities, the fire department will provide and install these devices for seniors free of charge—not only saving our oldest community members money, but also reducing the risk that an elder would fall while installing a device.
These devices can save your life, but a dead battery or malfunctioning alarm can lead to tragedy. Even though you’re losing an hour that day, take a few minutes on March 11 to improve your chances of being around on November 4 to enjoy getting that hour back!