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Remember to set clocks back one hour this weekend

COVINGTON -- If you want to be on time for church Sunday, you'll put your clock back one hour Saturday night before retiring. The first Sunday in November is upon us and that means changing to Eastern Standard time and shorter periods of daylight.

Area fire departments have introduced the new tradition of also changing the batteries or updating smoke alarms when the clocks change. Deputy Fire Chief Dan Morgan with Rockdale Fire and Rescue said even if your smoke detector has a 10-year battery, he urges that folks do not get out of the habit of pushing the button on the smoke alarm to make sure it works at the same time the clock is changed.

"Make sure that smoke detector screams at you," he said.

Morgan said his department had a fire earlier this year in which they have proof that the smoke detector saved the entire family's lives.

"They are very important to your overall safety in your home," he said. "They're very good at what they do and that is warning people of smoke and heat."

Both Rockdale and Newton County fire departments have a program where smoke alarms are furnished to those who need them. In Rockdale, a person must be over 60 and a resident of Rockdale County. Call Fire Safety Educator Sharon Webb at 770-278-8401. In Newton County, there is a backlog with the supplier and a waiting list. Call 770-784-2116 for more information.

"This past October, Newton County Fire had 10 building fires, all of which were residential. Of these 10 incidents, six were armed with smoke alarms which alerted the resident, while the other four had no working smoke alarms," said Newton County Fire Service Safety Educator Lt. Cydni Taylor-Ridling. "Six of these fires were related to cooking incidents. Fortunately there were no injuries."

Taylor offered the following safety tips and facts as an encouragement for all citizens to make the effort to make sure their home has working, up-to-date smoke detectors.

Smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a reported fire in half.

Most homes (96 percent) have at least one smoke alarm, according to a 2008 telephone survey.

Each year, nearly 3,000 people die in U.S. home fires.

Install a new battery in all smoke alarms at least once a year. Install a new battery immediately if an alarm "chirps" to indicate a low battery.

Replace smoke alarms that use extended-life, lithium batteries when the alarm "chirps" or fails to respond to periodic testing. The batteries in these units cannot be replaced.

In 2003-2006, roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from home fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. No smoke alarms were present in 40 percent of the home fire deaths. In 23 percent of the home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound.

In more than half of the reported home fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate even though the fire was large enough, batteries were missing or disconnected. Nuisance alarms were the leading reason for disconnected alarms.

More than half of the smoke alarms found in reported fires and two-thirds of the alarms found in homes with fire deaths were powered by battery only.

Most homes still have smoke alarms powered by battery only. In a 2007 American Housing Survey (AHS) 67 percent of the respondents who reported having smoke alarms said they were powered by battery only.

Replace smoke alarms every 10 years. In a 2008 telephone survey, only 12 percent knew that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.

In fires considered large enough to activate a smoke alarm, hand-wired alarms operated 91 percent of the time, battery-powered smoke alarms operated 75 percent of the time.

Choose a smoke alarm that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and outside all sleeping areas. For added safety, install alarms in all bedrooms.

To increase safety, have an electrician install hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms so that when one sounds, they all sound.

Test smoke alarms every month. Use the test button, or an approved smoke substitute, and clean the units, according to manufacturer's instructions. Do not use an open-flame device to test the alarm.

Special smoke alarms are made for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These alarms use strobe lights. Vibrating devices may also help in some cases.

Remember that the smoke alarm only sounds the warning. Develop and practice an escape plan to be sure that all members of your household can safely get out of a fire.