Change batteries in smoke detectors; establish a home escape plan

As we adjust to the time change, shorter days of daylight and cooler temperatures, now is the time to check the batteries of all the smoke alarms inside your home since these fire-protection devices will automatically detect and warn you of the presence of smoke and can save your life in the event of a fire.

A smoke alarm is critical for the early detection of a fire in your home and could mean the difference between life and death, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Home fires can happen at any time, but, according to the American Red Cross, they generally increase during the fall and winter, with December and January being the peak months.

Smoke alarms should be installed outside each sleeping area and on each level of the home. If you and your family sleep with the doors closed, install smoke alarms inside sleeping areas, too. It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms because when one sounds, they all sound.

People with hearing loss can use special alarms that use strobe lights and bed shakers.

Safety experts recommend testing the button once a month to check each smoke alarm. And at least once a year, all smoke alarm batteries should be replaced. Plus, smoke alarms can become less sensitive over time and should be replaced at least every 10 years.

Properly installed and maintained smoke alarms are considered to be one of the best and least expensive means of providing an early warning of a potentially deadly fire and could reduce by almost half the risk of dying from a fire in your home.

The type of fire, slow smoldering or fast flaming, can determine the amount of time you have to escape before being overcome by smoke, heat, and toxic gases. A slow smoldering fire may go undetected for a long period of time before it erupts into dangerous flames and high heat. A fast flaming fire has a very short amount of time before flames and heat become intense. In either type of fire, once out – stay out.

Your ability to get out of your house during a fire depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and having a home escape plan that is known and practiced by everyone in the household is very important. Involve all family members in establishing a plan. Begin by walking through your home and looking for two ways out of every room. Make sure escape routes are clear of debris and doors and windows open easily. Windows with security bars or grills should have an emergency release device.

Plan an outside meeting place where everyone will meet once they have escaped. A good meeting place is something permanent, like a tree, light pole, or mailbox a safe distance in front of the home. If there are infants, older adults, family members with mobility limitations or children who do not wake to the sound of the smoke alarm, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the event of an emergency.

If the smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside. Respond quickly – get up and go, remember to know two ways out of every room, get yourself outside quickly, and go to your outside meeting place with your family.

Be safe!