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Smoke Alarm/Carbon Monoxide Alarm Awareness and Safety Tips. - Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery.
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By Firefighter Patrick Kellett
March 9, 2019

Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery" has been recognized as America's most effective fire safety campaign, helping families keep safe should fire strike.

Working smoke alarms double a family's chances of surviving a home fire. As we change our clocks to spring ahead for Daylight Savings Time (DST), it is important that we also change the batteries in our smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

"The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that 71% of smoke alarms which failed to operate had missing, disconnected or dead batteries." In the event of a fire, the safety of you and your family is dependent on a properly functioning smoke detector. Smoke spreads quickly during a fire and smoke alarms provide you enough time to evacuate the home before the situation becomes too dangerous. Properly installed and maintained smoke detectors are key for effective fire prevention.

NFPA provides the following guidelines regarding smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Smoke alarms safety tips.
Test and vacuum your smoke alarms once a month. Dust and cobwebs can impair sensitivity. Press the test button to ensure the alarm is working.
Make sure that everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows the correct way to respond.
Smoke alarms in the home should be interconnected, when one sounds, they should all sound.
Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.
If the smoke alarm uses a non-replaceable, life-long battery, it is effective for up to 10 years. When the unit begins to chirp, replace the entire alarm right away.
Replace the smoke alarm immediately if it does not respond properly when tested.

For smoke alarms with replaceable batteries, a chirping or beeping sound will indicate that the batteries are low. It is best to adopt the habit of changing your batteries in the fall and spring, even if you have not heard a low battery alert. The NFPA tells us we should change our smoke alarm batteries twice a year, making DST the perfect reminder to change the time on all clocks and all smoke detector batteries.

To prepare for the upcoming time-change, verify that you have the correct batteries, both in size and quantity, to replace all smoke detectors in your home. Remember, smoke detectors save lives. Remind your friends and family to "change your clock, change your batteries."


Carbon monoxide:
Although the popularity of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms has been growing in recent years, it cannot be assumed that everyone is familiar with the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.

Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.

A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 80,100 non-fire CO incidents in which carbon monoxide was found, or an average of nine such calls per hour. The number of incidents increased 96 % from 40,900 incidents reported in 2003. This increase is most likely due to the increased use of CO detectors, which alert people to the presence of CO.

Carbon monoxide safety tips:
CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home including the basement.
For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call the fire department for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use outside.
Symptoms of CO poisoning
CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches. High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes.
The concentration of CO, measured in parts per million (ppm) is a determining factor in the symptoms for an average, healthy adult.

Make sure your children know and understand fire safety. Children are at double the risk of dying in a home fire, because they often become scared and confused during fires. Show your children where smoke and CO alarms are located. Make sure they recognize the smoke and CO alarm's sound and understand that a sounding alarm signals an emergency and a need to exit the home and call the fire department.

Plan and practice your escape routes. Identify at least two different escape routes and practice them with the entire family.

Install a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, including the basement.


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