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Firefighters advise: Change clocks, change batteries

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 11 2012 05:44:49 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 12 2012 04:40:33 AM CDT

By this time most of your clocks have already been moved an hour forward, but local fire officials say there's something more important you should take the time to check.

READING, Pa. -

By this time most of your clocks have already been moved an hour forward, but local fire officials said there's something more important you should take the time to check.

According to federal statistics, about 2,600 Americans die in home fires every year.  And your chance of dying in a fire doubles when your home has no working smoke alarms.  That's why Reading's fire marshal is urging you to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

A burnt out shell of a house is all that's left after a fire raged through a Walbert Avenue home in South Whitehall Twp., Lehigh Co.,  more than two weeks ago.  The blaze left two men dead, but gave officials yet another example of a fire that was highly preventable.  The home had no working smoke alarms.

"Smoke detectors save lives," said Reading City Fire Marshal Todd Iaeger.  "Very clearly statistical data have proven this for many years."

In fact studies have shown having a working smoke detector increases your survival rate by more than 50 percent.

"It's your first warning to tell you something's wrong, get up, get out and be safe."

But that can only happen if the alarms are in place, working, and maintained.  Almost one-quarter of smoke alarm failures are due to dead batteries. Iaeger said now is the perfect time to test your alarms and put in fresh juice.

"Smoke detectors are great. It tells you about the fire, but it doesn't get you out of the house and it doesn't put the fire out," he said.

Iaeger says when a fire strikes you're lucky to have one to three minutes to get out of the house because of how fast things burn, so your family needs an escape plan.

"Make sure two ways out of every room is known by all and make sure that you practice it using your smoke detectors for sound."

You can get a smoke detector at any retail store for as cheap as a few bucks.  Officials say you should have one installed inside and outside of bedrooms and on every level of your home including your basement.