Time to check smoke detectors

Daylight saving time returns at 2 a.m. Sunday, when we move our clocks ahead one hour.

While that means we will have an extra hour of daylight in the evening to enjoy outdoor activities, it also represents one of the two good times during the year to follow a routine of checking smoke detector batteries in your home.

There were 484,000 house fires in the country in 2011, with 2,640 people killed and 15,635 injured, according to the National Fire Prevention Association.

On average in the United States in 2010, someone died in a fire every 169 minutes, and someone was injured every 30 minutes, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

Anyone can walk into a department or hardware store and purchase a smoke alarm for as little as $10.

Installation is easy, and local fire departments can be called for help in placing the smoke detectors around the home. Experts say the best configuration includes one alarm on each floor of the house and inside sleeping areas.

Smoke alarms aren’t effective if they aren’t working properly.

Test the alarms once a month by pushing the test button and observing that the lights flash and the alarm sounds loudly.

Properly installed and maintained smoke alarms do save lives.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.

The biggest causes for an alarm to fail to function properly are missing, disconnected or dead batteries. In fact, surveys show that almost one-third of all smoke detectors fall into that category.

That’s as bad as not having a smoke detector at all.

Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths, and cooking is the primary cause of residential fires. Most victims of fires die from smoke or toxic gases and not from burns.

Smoke alarms give residents of the home a chance to safely escape.

Consider the time to spring ahead as the time to double check those batteries. While you’re at it, clean your smoke alarm. The National Fire Protection Association recommends the unit be replaced if it is more than 10 years old.

It’s a simple thing to remember and an easy task to perform. While you’re busy tonight setting and resetting your clocks, watches, coffee maker, microwave oven and other devices, remember to check your smoke detectors.

It’s one of the most important things to do to ensure the safety of everyone in your home.