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Check It - Today
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Every weekend, after running errands, I stop at a shop that sells Kolaches. The place is local. It has a small-town Texas feel. The owner, whom I will call "Jane," chats about local happenings as I make my purchase. On this particular week, I saw a sign stating they were closing at 10:30 a.m. for a death in the family. I asked what happened. Jane said her aunt had died. The funeral was that day.

 There had been an overnight house fire. It was not a big fire, she explained, but the battery on the smoke alarm was dead. The aunt, unwarned, died from smoke inhalation in her sleep. "Please pray for us," Jane asked. I assured her I would. "And check your home's smoke alarm," she added. "It is so important."

When I got home I did. I also did some research on smoke detectors.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports there are between 350,000 and 400,000 residential building fires annually in the United States. They result in nearly 3000 deaths each year, less than one fatality for every 100 fires. The reason for the relatively low death rate is smoke detectors. A working smoke detector warns of fire when escape is easily possible. Ninety-six percent of American homes now have them. But studies show that nearly 30% of those smoke detectors do not work. 

More Dangerous

A house with a smoke detector that does not work is even more dangerous than one without a smoke detector. You think you are safe when – like the aunt – you are at real risk.

Smoke detectors require attention. The battery should be replaced at least annually. Better still; change it twice a year – either on New Years Day and Independence Day or on the days when we change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time or Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time. If your smoke detector is "chirping" – giving off a soft intermittently beep - that signals the battery needs replacing.

Test your smoke detectors monthly. Push the test button that sounds the alarm on the first day of each month. If it does not sound, replace the battery and retest it. If it fails to sound after you change the battery, replace the detector. It is broken. Smoke detectors do not last forever. They have a design lifetime of ten years. They might last longer than ten years, but why risk it? Replace yours when it is ten years old.

If you have not tested your smoke detectors, recently, test it today. Change the battery if it is more than six months old. Replace the detector if it is more than ten years old.

Do it as a favor for me. Do it as a favor for Jane. More importantly, do it for your family and their safety.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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