Change your clock, change your battery

It’s one more chore to do around the house, but it’s one that could potentially save your life.

Tomorrow marks the end of daylight-saving time when we have to move our clocks back one hour. But it’s also an ideal time to change the batteries in all of the smoke alarms in your home. You’re already having to reset the time on your clocks, so what’s a couple more minutes to change a few batteries?

The “change your clock, change your battery” mantra is nothing new. The program dates back to 1987 with two fire departments in St. Louis and Atlanta. Now, more than 5,900 fire departments, including Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue, participate in spreading the important safety message. As a result, many families in the United States have adopted the habit of changing batteries at the same time they change their clocks, according to the Energizer Batteries company.

“We have no way of knowing exactly how many lives and homes have been saved as a result,” said Chief Steven P. Westermann, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). “What we do know is that each year more Americans are replacing their batteries before they wear out and that helps make each alarm safer.”

Having a working smoke alarm can cut the odds of dying in a home fire nearly in half by adopting this simple habit, according to Energizer. Most American homes — 96 percent – have smoke alarms; however, more than a quarter of those homes have at least one non-working smoke alarm, mostly due to worn out or missing batteries. The IAFC estimates more than 25 million homes are at risk.

Five common reasons home smoke alarms do not function properly are:

• Batteries are not replaced in a timely fashion.

• Batteries are removed due to unwanted activation from situations such as cooking fumes.

• Batteries are removed due to a “chirping sound,” which actually indicates the battery needs to be replaced.

• Alarms and detectors are not cleaned regularly.

• Alarm is aged and possibly contains outdated parts or technology.

Each of these reasons is easily remedied by either simply replacing the battery or the device.

“Many people mistakenly believe they will either see the flames or smell the smoke when a fire breaks out,” Westermann said. “But most fire fatalities happen while families are asleep. Smoke by itself doesn’t provide a wake-up call, but a working smoke alarm surely does.”

Do yourself and your family a favor and remember to change the batteries in your smoke alarms. Need a little more convincing? Here are a few more reasons to take “change your clock, change your battery” to heart:

• 1,000 children die every year in home fires.

• Children ages 5 and younger are twice as likely as the population as a whole to die in home fires.

• Seniors 75 and older are three times more likely to die in a home fire.

• 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. are the peak hours for home fires — when most people are asleep and the house is dark.

• Approximately every three hours a home fire death occurs somewhere in the nation.

• 80 percent of home fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke alarms.

• Only 25 percent of U.S. families have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan to ensure they could escape quickly and safely. Developing a family emergency escape plan can be crucial to everyone’s safety.