By Jason A. Smith
As area residents prepare to set their clocks ahead one hour this weekend, fire officials are urging them to take steps to protect their homes at the same time.
State and local fire officials are urging residents to change the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors, when daylight saving time begins. The reminder is part of the 22nd Annual Change Your Clock Change Your Battery campaign, a joint project of Energizer and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
It is "very important" for people to monitor their smoke alarm, in order to "be sure it's going to work" when needed, said Henry County Interim Fire Chief Bill Lacy.
"You need to test the batteries and change them frequently," Lacy said. "We like to see people do that because it ensures they'll have a working smoke detector to protect their families."
Lacy said he has witnessed structure fires in buildings not equipped with a working alarm. In some cases, he said, homeowners said they did not have enough money to purchase smoke detectors.
"Of course, any time that happens, it's rather discouraging," he said. "If people don't have the funds to buy batteries, or a smoke alarm, they can contact the fire department, and we'll do that for them."
On Thursday, fire officials reported that, nationwide, an average of two children per day die in home fires, and that 80 percent of those deaths occur in structures without working smoke alarms.
"Every year in Georgia, there are fire fatalities in homes that didn't have smoke alarms, or where the alarms didn't function because of dead batteries," State Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine said in a statement.
"The peak time for home-fire fatalities is between 10 p.m., and 6 a.m., when most families are sleeping," Henry County Fire Capt. Sabrina Puckett said. "Smoke alarm maintenance is a simple, effective way to reduce home-fire deaths. Children and senior citizens are most at risk, and a working smoke alarm can give them the extra seconds they need to get out safely."
Families, Puckett continued, can protect themselves in several ways against becoming fire victims. Those methods include designating two ways out of their homes, practicing escape routes, and preparing fire safety kits with working flashlights and fresh batteries.