State Fire Marshal urges residents to check their smoke alarms

LANSING — The Bureau of Fire Services (BFS) in the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth urges consumers to make sure they changed batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when they changed their clocks to Daylight Saving Time (setting clocks ahead one hour) on Sunday, March 13. Having working smoke detectors with fresh batteries can provide a family with crucial extra seconds to escape a burning home.

“Communities nationwide witness tragic home fire deaths each year. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms,” said State Fire Marshal Ronald R. Farr. “It’s critical to test your smoke alarm monthly, change the battery once a year, and replace the smoke alarm with a new one every 10 years. Now is the best time to purchase newer models with lithium batteries that will last the life of the unit. Having working smoke alarms is a simple, effective way to reduce home fire deaths.”

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, home fire deaths accounted for 84 percent of all fire deaths in 2008; 2,780 people died (one home fire death every three hours) and more than 13,500 were injured due to fires that started in their homes. Residential fires, occurring at a national rate of one fire every 86 seconds, resulted in property losses of more than $8.5 million, an increase of 13 percent over 2007.

According to Farr, the peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when most families are sleeping. He added that “children and senior citizens are most at risk and a working smoke alarm can give them the extra seconds they need to get out safely.”

Children are at increased risk of dying in a home fire because they often become scared and confused when a fire erupts. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that a family with children conduct a fire drill at night at least twice a year to determine how responsive they are to the alarms and how capable they are of following an escape plan. Make sure children recognize the sound of the home’s smoke alarms and teach them to respond instinctively to its signal. Also, create at least two different escape routes from every room and practice them monthly with the entire family.  Be sure all family members know the lifesaving practice of crawling below the dangerously thick smoke and intense heat of a fire.

All capable members of the family must learn how to open windows and remove screens or security bars. Purchase, plan, and practice using a collapsible emergency escape ladder that can be stored inside near upper floor windows. Realism is essential in the family’s practice, as is the clear designation of a meeting place for everyone to gather outside the home in case of a fire or other emergency.

The BFS also encourages homeowners to install at least one fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen and know how to use it. An all-purpose fire extinguisher that is listed by, and carries the mark of an accredited testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratory is recommended. Read all instructions carefully and mount the fire extinguishers for easy access. Make sure adult family members know the proper use as well as the limitations of these important fire safety tools.

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