“Smoke Detectors, A Sound You Can Live With”

Fire Officials urge residents to change batteries in smoke detectors and upgrade older units to new long life battery units designed to last 10 years.

During 2009, 7 Montgomery County residents died in residential fires. Their families joined thousands of other families across the country who lost one or more family members to a fire in the one place we all think we are safe. The reality is that each year, approximately 3000 people are killed by fires that break out in their home. The majority of these fatal fires share a common scenario. The victim was asleep at the time the fire broke out, and there were missing or non-functioning smoke detectors in their home. In fires like these a working smoke detector will alert you before your home is filled with smoke, and allow you and your family to escape unharmed.

On August 13th, 2010, 41 yr old Serena Dunn and her 12 yr old son, Dylan, died from severe smoke inhalation when a fire broke out in the living room of their home while the family was asleep. 14 yr old Dustin Dunn awoke to find his home filled with smoke and although burned, was able to escape by breaking out his bedroom window. As in many recent fatal fires in our area, MCFMO Investigators could find no evidence of a working smoke detector in the home.

Just last night, tragedy struck a family in Harris County, when a fire broke out in their home, killing their teenage daughter.

Research by the National Fire Protection Association reveals that 96% of homes surveyed have smoke detectors in them, however as many as 25% of them have missing or dead batteries and will not function if there is a fire. A smoke detector with a dead or missing battery cannot save you or your family’s lives in a fire. Most fatal fires occur in the early morning hours because the victims are asleep and don’t realize there is a fire until it is too late.

New Smoke Detector Campaign

Most people surveyed (88%) did not realize that battery powered smoke detectors have a useful life of only 10 years. If your battery operated smoke detectors are more than 10 years old, they should be replaced with new ones.

In recent years, The Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office has adopted a new safety campaign, “Change Your Detector, Not your Battery”. Under this program we recommend replacing older battery powered smoke detectors with the new Lithium Battery powered detectors available at most home and hardware stores. New or Recently installed battery powered smoke detectors can be upgraded by installing long life Lithium batteries, also available at most home and hardware stores. Lithium batteries can last for 10 years and many of the new models are sealed to prevent the removal of the battery. We strongly recommend the sealed units for rental properties due to the fact that many of these fatal fires occurred in a leased or rented home. Under Texas Law, the property owner is required to provide working smoke detectors at the time a home or apartment is rented, but it is the tenant’s responsibility to maintain it and report any problems to the owner. Owners of rental property can help insure the safety of their residents by installing these tamper-resistant sealed units. After 10 years the detector will sound a low battery alarm and the whole unit can then be replaced. Remember to place a smoke detector in every room where someone may sleep. Please don’t let you or your family members join the list of victims who died in a fire for lack of a working smoke detector.

Smoke alarms

  • Smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a reported fire in half.
  • Most homes (96%) have at least one smoke alarm (according to a 2008 telephone survey.)
  • Overall, three-quarters of all U.S. homes have at least one working smoke alarm.
  • Each year, nearly 3,000 people die in U.S. home fires.
  • In 2003-2006, roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from home fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
    – No smoke alarms were present in 40% of the home fire deaths.
    – In 23% of the home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound.
  • In more than half of the reported home fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate even though the fire was large enough, batteries were missing or disconnected. Nuisance alarms were the leading reason for disconnected alarms.
  • More than half of the smoke alarms found in reported fires and two-thirds of the alarms found in homes with fire deaths were powered by battery only.clip_image001
  • Most homes still have smoke alarms powered by battery only. In a 2007 American Housing Survey (AHS), 67% of the respondents who reported having smoke alarms said they were powered by battery only.
  • In a 2008 telephone survey, only 12% knew that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.
  • In fires considered large enough to activate a smoke alarm, hard-wired alarms operated 91% of the time; battery-powered smoke alarms operated 75% of the time.
  • Interconnected smoke alarms on all floors increase safety.
    – In a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) survey of households with any fires, interconnected smoke alarms were more likely to operate and alert occupants to a fire. (This includes fires in which the fire department was not called.)

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