The time to change your clocks, batteries is Sunday
Twenty years ago, the people from Energizer® Batteries and the nation’s firefighters came up with an idea that likely has saved thousands of homes and perhaps as many lives.
The idea connected two unrelated activities — changing clocks for Daylight Saving Time and changing the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Residents could change their batteries on these important safety alarms almost anytime, but in fact, many didn’t. It’s a sad fact that approximately 80 percent of fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke alarms. Since hardly anyone neglects to change their clocks, Energizer and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) decided to urge Americans through the Change Your Clock Change Your Battery® program to use the “extra hour” to change their smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector batteries.
This year, the time to set clocks back one hour and change batteries in smoke detectors is Sunday at 2 a.m. or Saturday night before going to bed.
The program started in 1987 with just two fire departments in St. Louis and Atlanta. Now as the Change Your Clock Change Your Battery program celebrates its 20th anniversary, more than 5,900 fire departments across the country are participating in the program. And as a result, many Americans have adopted the habit of changing their batteries at the same time they change their clocks.
“We have no way of knowing exactly how many lives and homes have been saved as a result,” said Chief Steven P. Westermann, president of the IAFC. “What we do know is that each year more Americans are replacing their batteries before they wear out and that helps make each alarm safer.”
Adopting the habit of a working smoke alarm can cut the odds of dying in a home fire nearly in half. Most American homes — 96 percent in fact — have smoke alarms; however, more than a quarter of those homes have at least one nonworking smoke alarm, mostly due to worn out or missing batteries. The IAFC estimates more than 25 million homes are at risk.
Five common reasons home smoke alarms do not function properly are:
• Batteries are not replaced in a timely fashion.
• Batteries are removed due to unwanted activation from situations such as cooking fumes.
• Batteries are removed due to a “chirping sound,” which actually indicates the battery needs to be replaced.
• Alarms and detectors are not cleaned regularly.
• Alarm is aged and possibly contains outdated parts or technology.
Each of these reasons is easily remedied by either simply replacing the battery or the device.
“Many people mistakenly believe they will either see the flames or smell the smoke when a fire breaks out,” Westermann said. “But most fire fatalities happen while families are asleep. Smoke, by itself, doesn’t provide a wake-up call, but a working smoke alarm surely does.”
Westermann also noted that November usually brings the onset of severe weather, a time when power outages are more frequent. He urged residents to avoid using candles, which are often the cause of home fires, and to instead use flashlights. Daylight Saving Time is a good time to check batteries in flashlights as well.
Published in The Messenger on 11.02.07