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Fire and Rescue
Forty Percent of Home Fire Deaths - No Smoke Alarms Present
Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday, November 4th.  As you change your clocks backward (fall back), Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue ( would like to remind residents to change the batteries in their smoke alarms.  Smoke alarms provide occupants with an early warning allowing them additional time to escape; smoke alarms save lives!
According to U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), each year in the U.S., approximately 3,500 people die and 18,300 sustain injuries from fires. In 2005 - 2009, approximately 66% of reported home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. 
By 2010, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 96% of U.S. households have at least one smoke alarm; yet, the number of home fire deaths is still alarming.  In 40% of the reported home fire deaths, no smoke alarms were present and of the U.S. homes with smoke alarms, 25% 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.
Although these deadly fires often occur late at night and early morning when individuals are sleeping, one vital step in saving lives is installing smoke alarms.  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 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.
Smoke Alarms for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
According to Gallaudet Research Institute, a 1990 and 1991 survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that over 20 million people (8.6 % of the population in the U.S.), suffer from some degree of deafness and of those people, approximately 421,000 are completely deaf.  Traditional audible smoke alarms that alert individuals about fire, is not a viable option for this particular population, 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
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!


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