Households without Smoke Alarms - the Consequence Can Be Deadly
For Release
March 7, 2013
Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, March 10th.  As you change your clocks forward, Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue would like to remind residents to change the battery in their smoke alarm.  Smoke alarms provide occupants with an early warning allowing them additional time to escape. Smoke alarms save lives!
 
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), almost all U.S. households have at least one smoke alarm.  In 2005 - 2009, approximately 66% of reported home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.  These deadly fires often occur late at night and early morning when individuals are sleeping.  According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), in 40% of the reported home fire deaths no smoke alarms were present.  Of the U.S. homes with smoke alarms, 23% of the home fire deaths were the result of the alarm failing to sound.  When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually the result of missing, disconnected or dead batteries.  According to NFPA, households with smoke alarms that do not work substantially outnumber households with no alarms.
 
Each year, in the U.S., approximately 3,500 people die in home fires and over 18,000 are injured; most are homes without a working smoke alarm.  When properly installed and maintained, smoke alarms save lives and protect against injury and loss due to fire.  You double your chances of surviving a home fire with working smoke alarms compared to homes without working smoke alarms.
 
To keep you and your family safe follow these life-saving smoke alarm tips:
 
  • Place a smoke alarm on every level of your home including the basement and inside and outside sleeping areas.   
  • Check smoke alarms monthly by pushing the test button.  If you cannot reach the button easily, use a broom handle. 
  • Change the batteries in your alarms at least once a year or each time you change your clock. (spring forward, fall back).
  • Do not remove the batteries from your smoke alarms to put in other appliances. 
  • The life span of a smoke alarm is 8-10 years and the entire alarm should be replaced during this time (consider installing a ten-year lithium battery-powered smoke alarm, which is sealed so it cannot be tampered with or opened).
  • Hard-wired smoke alarms with battery back-ups need to be tested monthly and batteries replaced yearly. 
  • Keep smoke alarms clean. Vacuum or dust your smoke alarms according to manufacturer’s directions to keep them working properly.
  • Teach children what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do in the event it sounds.
 
Smoke alarms can often sound while cooking or taking a shower that emits large amounts of steam.  If a smoke alarm sounds during these types of activities, do not remove or disable the battery; creating a minor fix that can lead to a deadly mistake.  Instead you should:
  • Open a window or door and press the “hush” button,
  • Wave a towel at the alarm to clear the air, or
  • Move the entire alarm several feet away from the location.
 
 
 
According to USFA, there are 11 million deaf or hard of hearing Americans who are unable to rely on traditional audible smoke alarms to alert them of fire. But they can rely on vibrating alarms or visual alarms equipped with flashing strobe lights.  It is vital that this audience is aware of the availability of these types of smoke alarm devices as well as the importance of a proper escape plan. For more information on smoke alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing contact the Hearing and Loss Association of America at 301-657-2248 or visit http://www.hearingloss.org/.
 
 
Additional Life-Saving Tips
 
Develop and practice, regularly, a home fire escape plan and be sure everyone in your household knows what to do and where to go in the event there is a fire.
 
*Note: When changing the batteries in your smoke alarm, it’s also important to change the batteries in your NOAA All Hazard/Weather Radio. Hazardous weather conditions can develop at any time – Be Prepared!  Preparation is your best defense!