Suppose it's 3 a.m. and you're in a sound sleep. Someone in the family has forgotten food cooking on the stove and a fire starts. As the flames spread and smoke begins to fill your home, will you wake up and escape safely?
If you have a smoke alarm, the device's warning signal can rouse you from your sleep and alert you to the danger in your home so you can escape.
The Payson firefighters and I feel strongly about the importance of working smoke alarms. We're teaming up with the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other firefighters across North America in promoting Fire Prevention Week, October 3-9. The theme for this year's campaign is "It's Fire Prevention Week: Test Your Smoke Alarms." NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week since 1922.
A fire can grow and spread throughout a home quickly. In fact, you may have as few as two minutes to get out safely once the alarm sounds. With close to 80 percent of all fire deaths occurring in the home, it's easy to see why smoke alarms are essential in every household.
People have been using smoke alarms since the 1970s, when they became available to the public. Since then, they've helped to cut the risk of dying in a fire by nearly half. I wish that everyone had a smoke alarm, but that's not the case. Roughly 70 percent of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
NFPA recommends that at least one smoke alarm be installed on each level of a home -- including the basement -- and outside every separate sleeping area. They should be tested once a month using the test button. The batteries on smoke alarms should be replaced once a year or sooner if the alarm "chirps," meaning that the battery is low. Replace all smoke alarms after 10 years, even those that are hard-wired or smoke alarms with long-life (10-year) batteries. Smoke alarms with long-life batteries should also be replaced when the alarm "chirps" or fails to respond to periodic testing. The batteries in these units cannot be replaced.
To learn more about Fire Prevention Week, visit NFPA at www.firepreventionweek.org.