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Oct. 30 Focus of 'Change Clock, Change Battery' Campaign

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2005 – As residents turn back their clocks one hour this weekend and revert to standard time, defense safety officials urge them to change the batteries of their smoke alarms, too.

Daylight-saving time officially ends at 2 a.m. Oct. 30, the last Sunday in the month. Clocks "fall back" one hour and standard time resumes.

For the past 18 years, the International Association of Fire Chiefs has used the time change as an opportunity to remind people to change the batteries of their smoke alarms as well -- a campaign Air Force Col. Art Kaminski, a DoD safety officer, said the department wholeheartedly endorses.

"It's an appropriate time to remind people to change their batteries," Kaminski said, noting that house fires are the leading type of fires within the military. Most of those fires can be traced to unattended cooking, he said.

Officials from the fire chiefs association attribute the "Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery" campaign with helping reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by fires. Still, more than 3,000 Americans are killed each year in fires, most in one- and two-family homes, association officials reported. About one-third of those killed are under age 20.

DoD firefighters responded to nearly 30,000 residential fires since January 2004, Kaminski reported. These incidents took nine lives and injured 50 people, as well as 12 DoD firefighters, and caused more than $7 million in damage, he said.

Not all these fires occurred on military installations, Kaminski said, noting that DoD fire departments also support fire-fighting efforts in surrounding communities.

Fire officials say the few minutes required to maintain a smoke alarm can mean the difference between life and death in the event of a fire. "A minute spent changing the batteries can save a lifetime of grief," said IAFC President Bill Killen, former director of the Navy's fire program and currently fire chief at Holston Army Ammunition Plant, Tenn.

"A working smoke detector provides an early warning and critical extra seconds to escape," Killen said. This is particularly important for those at highest risk of dying in a home fire: children and seniors, he said.

All DoD housing units are required to have smoke alarms, Killen said. But he quickly pointed out, "They only work properly with functioning batteries."

Ninety-six percent of American homes have at least one smoke alarm, yet officials estimate that a full 23 percent of them don't work, mostly due to dead or missing batteries. This, they point out, means that some 25.6 million households have non-working smoke alarms and another 6 million have no smoke alarms.

Nationwide, roughly 80 percent of all fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke alarms, officials reported. Half of the home fire deaths resulted from fires in the 5 percent of homes with no smoke alarms.

In addition to changing the batteries on their smoke alarms at least once a year, officials recommend testing detectors each month and replacing them every 10 years.

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International Association of Fire Chiefs

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