Residents urged to test, upgrade home smoke alarms

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Captain Andy Marceau, community risk reduction officer for the Alpena Fire Department, shows off a pair of smoke alarms that have lithium batteries in them. He said people should consider swapping out the older type smoke detectors with nine-volt batteries and upgrade to the new technology. Marceau said a family will save money over the 10 years by not having to purchase batteries twice a year for 10 years.

ALPENA — Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday and there is more to do than just set your clocks ahead an hour.

Fire officials around the country promote the changing of batteries in smoke alarms to test them during Daylight Saving Time so families know for certain they are operating correctly.

In Alpena, the fire department is asking a bit more of residents. The department encourages people to purchase new smoke alarms that have pre-installed lithium batteries that are guaranteed to last 10 years.

Community Risk Reduction Officer Captain Andy Marceau said the longer lasting smoke detectors provide more protection because they don’t unexpectedly go dead and operate even if they are disconnected from the ceiling.

He said a new one costs about $40, but when the cost of changing batteries twice a year for 10 years is factored in, it’s a bargain and should provide the families peace of mind they will be alerted of a fire in their home, especially when they are asleep.

Marceau said in the many years he has been a firefighter, he has seen many instances where smoke detectors have saved lives and limited the amount of damage caused by an unexpected fire.

“Smoke alarms absolutely save lives,” he said. “I have seen it time and time again.”

Modern smoke detectors with the longer lasting battery can be found at stores like Walmart and Meijer as well as online.

Having a dependable smoke alarm is only part of the equation for fire safety in homes. Marceau said the location of the alarms is critical too.

“At the very least, there should be one on every level of the home. Put one in the hallway outside of bedrooms, he said. “That is the perfect way to start.”

Marceau said Sunday is also a good time to review or create a fire plan with your family. He said having a pair of designated escape routes planned in advance and a meeting point outside helps to avoid confusion and separation during a fire. It also helps firemen determine if everyone in the structure is accounted for.

Unfortunately many homes have second levels to them and if there is a fire in the stairwell, evacuating that way may be impossible.

Marceau said the best action to take is to isolate yourself into one room, close the door, seal the crack under the door, and open or break a window and wait for help to arrive.

He said throwing small items out the window onto the ground will also help alert firefighters if there is someone in the building and what room they are in.

“Throw books, stuffed animals, anything that when our firefighter does his 360-degree walk around the structure, they will see what we call the yard sale and know where you are. We carry letters, many letters, and we will come up and get the person out,” Marceau said.

There are also fire ladders that can be purchased and attached to homes that people can install in case of emergency.

Marceau said they aren’t as sturdy as a regular ladder and practicing climbing down them is a must before they are needed during a fire.

“You better practice using it one day,” he said. “Hang it on a railing and try crawling up and down it a little bit. Just to get a feel of what it is like, because they are wobbly and not like an ordinary ladder at your hardware store.”

Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox