As Daylight Saving Time begins, firefighters celebrate legislation requiring ten-year smoke detector batteries

March 10, 2016 by Mark H. Anbinder

"Change your clocks, change your batteries," goes the helpful reminder from fire departments. The Ithaca Fire Department reminds area residents that the beginning of Daylight Saving Time also provides an easy-to-remember opportunity to change batteries in home smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

The Firemen's Association of the State of New York adds the suggestion to clean smoke detectors while you're changing the battery, removing any dust or debris that could impede their function. FASNY supported legislation in New York State passed last summer to require all smoke detectors sold in the state to come with batteries that have a ten-year life span. 

Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law in late December, and effective January 1, 2017, all battery-powered smoke detectors sold in New York must have permanently installed batteries that last at least ten years. "All homes and businesses must have working smoke detectors and it is undisputed that these devices save lives," Cuomo said.

IFD lieutenant Thomas T. Basher Jr. sometimes credits a working smoke detector for a positive outcome in a residential fire. Basher says, "Small fires, unreported or undetected, can quickly grow and overtake an apartment or home." Working smoke detectors are a vital factor in surviving fires in the home.

The National Fire Protection Association says 96% of all homes in the U.S. have at least one smoke detector, but only about three quarters of all homes have a working smoke detector, and that almost two thirds of home fire deaths from 2005-2009 occurred in homes with no smoke detectors or no working smoke detectors.

"This is a device that if working properly can be the difference between life and death," says FASNY president Robert McConville. "Simply put, this is the most important appliance in your home. It will not only help save your life, but the lives of firefighters tasked with protecting the public."

Smoke detectors should be on every level of a home, and outside every separate sleeping area and cooking areas. Hardwired smoke detectors should have a battery backup in case of power failure, and batteries should be replaced once or twice a year, even if the low-battery warning hasn't sounded yet. Detectors should be replaced entirely after ten years. (Some smoke detectors, like the Nest Protect, already have ten-year batteries.)

The slogan "Change your clocks, change your batteries" encourages people to replace smoke detector batteries twice a year, when Daylight Saving Time begins and ends in the spring and fall. Daylight Saving Time begins this Saturday night (early Sunday morning) at 2am, and clocks should be changed to 3am at that time, or set ahead an hour before you go to bed. Most computers, DVRs, and cell phones these days update their clocks automatically, but most car clocks, bedside alarm clocks, wristwatches, and cameras need to be changed by hand.

Basher encourages anyone who needs help with their smoke detectors to contact their local fire house.

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