Perform a death-defying act: Buy and use a smoke alarm

This opinion column appears in the March 11 Southern Sentinel. Give your opinion in the comments below. Last weekend, most of the nation turned its clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Savings Time. Along with DST, we ought to be thinking of LST – Life Savings Time. Now that you’ve set your clocks ahead, take another minute or two to make sure your smoke detectors have working batteries. And if you don’t have smoke detectors, buy them. They can save your life in event of a fire by providing precious seconds of early warning. Sadly, many fire deaths and injuries are preventable. More than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires and more than 25,000 are injured. Some of those figures are very close to home; there have been five fire fatalities in this county since 2004; four that year and one earlier this year. Many of those who died in fires nationwide might be alive today if they only had the information they needed to prevent a disaster. Those statistics are good reason to take a simple precaution that can increase your odds of surviving a fire. That simple action: Install and use a smoke alarm. According to federal statistics compiled by the U. S. Fire Administration Quick Response Program, over 80 per cent of all fire deaths happen in the home. Having a working smoke alarm more than doubles one’s chances of surviving a fire, federal officials say. Nearly half the residential fires and three fifths of residential fatalities happen in homes with no smoke alarms. Federal officials urge you to place a smoke alarm on each level of your home and in all outside bedrooms. Change the batteries twice a year – perhaps when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time. Teach your youngsters what the alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear it sound – leave the building immediately by crawling under the smoke. If cooking sets off the alarm, do not disable it. Turn on the range fan, open a window or wave a towel near the alarm. Leave the batteries in the smoke alarm. Don’t take them out to put in other appliances. And consider buying a lithium smoke alarm which will operate for 10 years and is sealed so it can’t be opened. Smoke detectors wear out over time. Replace yours if it is 10 years old or more. Perform a death-defying act: Buy a smoke detector, and use it. The life you save may be your own or that of a loved one.

Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel