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Your life may depend upon it

 It is critical that we establish an easily remembered time to change the batteries in all of our smoke detectors. Some select the twice-yearly changing of the clock as the time---fall back and spring ahead. Some use the first day of spring and the first day of fall. Some decide that once-yearly is sufficient with alkaline batteries, and do it on their birthday. But please pick a rock solid date that you will remember, and change that battery. If you are unable to reach it, call your fire department to see if they can help. They can also advise you on where you should place your smoke detectors.

The Issue: Smoke Detector Neglect

  • Although smoke detectors are present in 94 % of American homes, 20% do not work, mostly because of dead or missing batteries. That means roughly 19 million homes are at risk due to non-working smoke alarms and another 6 million homes are at risk due to no smoke alarms.

  • In the U.S. roughly 80% of fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke detectors. Half of the home fire deaths resulted from fires in the small percentage of homes (6%) without any smoke detectors.

  • If a fire occurs, working smoke detectors cut the risk of dying in a home fire nearly in half by providing early warning and critical extra seconds to escape.

  • Eighty-three (83) percent of all civilian fire-related deaths are a result of home fires.

  • The National Fire Alarm Code recommends a minimum of one smoke alarm on each level of a home, including one inside each bedroom for new construction and one outside each sleeping area.

  • In addition to changing smoke alarm batteries, smoke detectors should be replaced every ten (10) years.

  • Education is key. Less than one quarter (1/4) of U.S. homes had smoke alarms in 1977. Although several factors such as safer products, building codes and life safety education played important roles, increased smoke alarm usage played a major role in the nearly 50 percent drop in home fire deaths since that time.

  • Somewhere in the nation, a home fire death occurs approximately every three hours.

  • The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 pm and 6 am –When most people are sleeping.

  • Households with non-working smoke detectors now outnumber those with no smoke alarms.

  • Tragically, many people mistakenly believe they’d be awakened by the smell of smoke in time to escape. Clinical experiments have found that the sense of smell actually lessens when people are asleep. In addition, smoke disorients people and dulls their senses, making it less likely that other cues, such as cries for help, will awaken them. This is why working smoke alarms are so important.

Senior Citizens and Home Fires

  • Adults ages 65 and older are two (2) times more likely to die in a house fire: those ages 75 & up are three (3) times more likely and those ages 85 and up are 4.5 times more likely to die in a home fire. Many older adults need assistance to walk and can not escape in time by themselves.

  • The sense of smell decreases with age, making the elderly less likely to smell smoke and be able take appropriate action in time.

  • More on Seniors and Fire Safety and Fire Safety in the Kitchen

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