Oct. 9 through 15 is Fire Prevention Week, and this year's theme is "Don't Wait - Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years." Many people don't know that the date of manufacture is on the back of each alarm. If a device is 10 years old, it's time for a new one.
Smoke detectors' batteries should be checked monthly to ensure the alarms are working. Technical refinements make this task easier than ever:
Such innovations are intended to keep people from clinging to ladders or balancing atop chairs to check their smoke detectors - or, worse, from not testing the devices or installing them at all.
That's because statistics provide overwhelming evidence the devices are lifesavers.
Eighty-five percent of all fire-related deaths occur in homes, with most happening at night when people are asleep. Fire creates carbon monoxide and other toxic gasses, and people who breathe the smoke can die, especially if they are not awake.
Forty percent of home fire deaths take place in residences without smoke detectors, and 23 percent occur in homes with smoke alarms that don't work. When detectors fail to blast their piercing sound it usually is because the batteries are dead, missing, or disconnected.
That's why it's so important to test the devices and replace them at least every 10 years.
Smoke detectors range in price. An inexpensive model with a sealed lithium battery costs about $25. Alarms with smartphone technology can be $130 or so.
The important thing is to have smoke alarms of some type, and to make sure they work. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue officials want every home to have the devices. The County will provide free smoke detectors to people who can't afford them. To see if you qualify visit Project Safe.
Detectors should be placed high off the ground in every bedroom, and in hallways leading to bedrooms. It's also a good idea for families to have an exit plan in case a fire breaks out, and to practice it.