Spring forward and change your smoke alarm battery
Mar 05, 2014
In the Midwest, March comes like a lion bringing many rites of spring: daffodils, robins, and Daylight Saving Time. This weekend, Americans will trade an hour of sleep for an extra hour of evening sunshine. As you go room to room springing your clocks forward an hour, take this opportunity to check your smoke alarms and change their batteries.
If they’re working properly, smoke alarms can mean the difference between life and death in a fire. Working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in home fires by half, according to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), but smoke alarm maintenance is up to homeowners.
"Many homes may not have any smoke alarms, not enough smoke alarms, alarms that are too old, or alarms that are not working," says Alan Clark, Grinnell Mutual’s assistant vice president of Special Investigations. "If a smoke alarm is 10 years old or older, it needs to be replaced."
"Most people have a sense of complacency about smoke alarms because they already have one in their homes," says Judy Comoletti, division manager for NFPA public education.
According to data from NFPA, many homes have smoke alarms that aren’t working or maintained properly, usually because of missing, disconnected, or dead batteries. Roughly two-thirds of all home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
Does your smoke alarm work?
"A widespread problem we see is that homeowners disconnect or remove the battery rather than replacing it when their smoke detector starts chirping," says Clark.
NFPA research suggests more than one out of every five homes in the U.S. have a smoke alarm that does not work properly.
"We want residents to understand that working smoke alarms are needed in every home, on every level, including the basement, outside each sleeping area, and inside each bedroom," says Clark.
Homeowners can make sure their smoke alarms are maintained and working properly with these tips from Grinnell Mutual:
- Test your smoke alarms. This weekend push the test button on your smoke alarms. Make sure everyone in your home knows the sound. Test your smoke alarms at least once a month.
- Check the batteries. If a smoke alarm "chirps," warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
- Replace old smoke alarms. How old are your smoke alarms? If they were installed before 2004 or if they do not respond properly to testing, replace them. This includes alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms.
- Connect your smoke alarms. Interconnect hard-wired smoke alarms so if one sounds, all will sound. Contact a certified electrician or purchase wireless systems that you can install yourself.
- Never remove or disable a smoke alarm.
Visit Grinnell Mutual on YouTube to see a demonstration of how a smoke alarm activates in a home fire.