Valdosta Daily Times

November 3, 2012

Smoke detectors save lives

Check batteries when the clock ‘falls back’

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — With clocks “falling back” at the end of Daylight Saving Time Saturday night at midnight, Lowndes County Fire Rescue reminds residents of Valdosta and surrounding areas to check the batteries in their smoke alarms.

Each year, smoke alarms sound in about half of all home fires, according to Fire Chief Richard Guyton. Nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke alarms.

In 25 percent of those deaths, smoke alarms are present but do not operate, and 73 percent of the time the battery is either missing or dead.

“Check your smoke detector on a regular basis,” Guyton stated. “Using the dates for the change to and from Daylight Saving Time is a good way to remember to do this check. As always, remember batteries have a life span and those in your smoke detector should last one year. Avoid becoming part of that 73 percent.”

As fall temperatures continue to drop, heaters to warm up and fireplaces to begin burning, the fire department also encourages residents to be wary of “substandard heating methods.”

These methods include any appliance that does not meet current fire code and is not UL approved, or appliances not being used as they were intended, such as using an oven as a heating source.

From 2005 to 2009, 79 percent of fire deaths involved stationary or portable space heaters, Guyton stated. In the majority of cases, fires resulted from heating equipment being too close to flammable items like upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses and bedding.

Modern space heaters that have been UL tested can be safe if used properly, according to Guyton.

“Remember, never place flammable materials close to any heating source and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions,” Guyton stated.

Residents using their fireplaces should also be wary of creosote, a

flammable chemical found in chimney flues as a result of incomplete burning of wood or coal that produces soot and heavy smoke.

Creosote flare-ups account for about 22 percent of home heating fires each year, and cause $35 million in property damage, Guyton stated.

Residents should have a licensed professional inspect flues for creosote buildup and other heating systems for problems. Inspections can find blocked chimneys, faulty wiring, propane or gas leaks, dust collection and thermostat issues, all of which can cause fires.