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Replace smoke detector batteries when you fall back

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Replace smoke detector batteries when you fall back

By Greg Summers

A smoke detector doubles your chances of surviving a home fire, but only if it works.  That’s why the Lancaster County Fire Chiefs Association is reminding residents to change the batteries in their smoke detectors this weekend to coincide with the 2 a.m. Saturday change back to standard time.  Ken Walters, assistant chief of Kershaw Fire Department, is president of the  Lancaster County Fire Chiefs Association.  Walters said a properly operating smoke alarm is an easy and inexpensive way that almost cuts the odds of dying in a home fire in half. According to the International Association of Fire Chiefs, about 80 percent of all fire deaths happen in homes without working smoke alarms. “It’s a great investment,” Walters said. “For $6 to $8, you can get something that can save someone’s life and a $150,000 home.” Walters recalls an instance last year where a home in the Connally Street area of Kershaw was damaged after a pot of cooking grease boiled over on the kitchen stove. “There was a smoke detector in an adjacent room that went off,” he said. “Firefighters couldn’t save the kitchen, but confined the fire and saved the rest of the house.”     Statistics also show that while 96 percent of homes have smoke detectors, about 19 percent of them don’t have a least one smoke alarm that works, due to dead or missing batteries. “The problem is serviceability,” Walters said. “The majority of homes in the county have smoke detectors, but that doesn’t mean they are working properly.” Tracy Caldwell, chairman of the Lancaster County Fire Commission, said it’s also important to remember that as the temperature drops, the change of fire danger rises. One of the leading causes of house fires in Lancaster County is the result of people trying to stay warm in their homes during cool weather.  “As a firefighter, you kinda cringe because you know that you are going to see an increase in calls that are heating-related, especially at this time of the year,” Caldwell said. “Typically, it will be traced to kerosene heaters, space heaters, fireplaces, chimneys and stuff like that.” Caldwell said it’s important for residents not to take anything for granted. He said kerosene and space heaters come with instructions for a reason.   “You need to follow all the manufacturer’s recommendations from using the correct types of fuel and filling kerosene heaters outside to making sure that all types of space heaters have an adequate buffer area,” he said.  “And whatever you do, you don’t want to leave anything be it a wood stove or kerosene heater, unattended,” Caldwell said. Walters said it’s also a good idea to have your heating system checked out before running it. “Prevention is always going to be the No.1 detector,” Walters said.   Smoke detector tips   

  – Test your smoke detector every month. – Press the test button on your detector and check that the device beeps or rings loudly. – If your smoke detector starts chirping or beeping off and on, it’s time to change the batteries. – Don’t light candles under the detector to see if the alarm will go off. Repeated use of smoke to activate detectors can make them fail when a real fire occurs. – If you have questions about smoke detectors or need help checking one, city residents should call Lancaster Fire Department at 283-4385. County residents should call the Lancaster County Emergency Management Office at 283-8888.