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Check smoke alarms

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 sunshine to enjoy outdoor activities, it also represents one of the two good times each year to follow a routine of checking batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

The National Fire Protection Association reported that in 2019, the last year statistics are available for, fire departments across the United States responded to 1,291,500 fires. Those blazes resulted in 3,704 civilian deaths and 16,600 civilian injuries, the association said, adding they led to $14.8 billion in direct property damage.

Those numbers might sound high, but they are part of a significant decline that has taken place over 40 years. The association said there were 2,988,000 fires in 1980 that resulted in 6,505 deaths and led to inflation-adjusted financial loss of $19.6 million.

Firefighters also are at risk when they answer a call, with 60,825 injuries occurring in the line of duty in 2019, a number that represents a large decline from the 103,340 injuries reported in 1981.

Smoke detectors save lives and limit property damage. In a fire, smoke and deadly gases tend to spread farther and faster than heat. Most victims of fires die from smoke or toxic gases and not from burns.

The time to talk about smoke detectors is before a fire breaks out. Their warning can give you the precious seconds needed to escape a burning house.

They are inexpensive to purchase and, in some communities, detectors are available for reduced fees or at no charge.

Installation is easy, and can be accomplished by just about anyone. Local fire departments can be called for help in placing smoke detectors throughout the home. Experts say the best configuration includes one alarm on each floor of the house and inside sleeping areas.

But 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. The fire protection association says 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. Surveys show that almost one-third of all smoke detectors fall into that category, and that situation is as bad as not having a smoke detector at all.

Consider the time to spring ahead as the time to double check those batteries. While you’re at it, clean your smoke alarm and, if it is more than 10 years old, it should be replaced.

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