Clocks Change March 14: And Yes, You Should Still Test Your Alarms

Change your clocks, test your alarms, practice your home fire drill

Even for smoke alarms that have long-life batteries—or are hard-wired—it’s still important to make sure the alarm is working. Not every single long-life battery will work for 10 years, and even hard-wired alarms can fail. So yes, you should still test your smoke alarms at least twice a year — the Daylight Saving Time change is a good reminder—and once a month is better, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association.

Our “Test Your Alarms” message includes your CO detector. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends pushing the test button on your CO detector (which tests whether the circuitry is operating correctly), to replace the detector at the age recommended by the manufacturer, and most importantly to go outside to fresh air immediately if it goes off.

That goes for smoke alarms too: When the alarms go off, you get out. Searching for the source of the CO or the fire could be a fatal mistake.

Why practice a home fire drill? Because even the best alarm can only protect your family if everyone knows what to do when it goes off. And if that happens at night when people are sleeping—the time when most fatal fires occur—it can be harder than you think to get up and out quickly.

Make sure hallways are kept clear of clutter and that everyone knows at least two ways of getting out—one of them may be a window—especially from bedrooms. Make sure everyone understands how important it is to go to your outside meeting place, so if there is a fire you’ll know whether everyone is out. When the fire service arrives, tell them if everyone is at the meeting place and about any pets that may still be inside.

You can learn more about installing and testing smoke alarms, and planning and practice your escape, at homefiredrill.org.

Space Heater Safety

We’re spending more time at home, and that means we’re spending more time with space heaters. For homes in regions with milder winters with no central heating, space heaters may be the main source for heating. In colder climates they may be used to supplement central heating, and to keep down heating fuel costs.

Stay safe this winter with these tips:

  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn—paper, bedding, clothing, curtains or furniture  Having combustibles too close to the heat source is the leading factor contributing to home heating fires.
  • Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Keep children away from space heaters, especially when they’re wearing night gowns or other loose clothing that can easily catch fire.
  • With electrical heaters, make sure the circuit isn’t overloaded. Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet, and don’t plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater. Don’t use an extension cord or power strip; these could overheat and start a fire.
  • Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces.
  • Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
  • Keep electrical heaters well away from water.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

Learn about safely using kerosene heaters here.