FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Suppose it's 3 a.m. and you're in a sound sleep. Someone in the family has forgotten food cooking on the stovetop and a fire breaks out. As the flames spread and smoke begins to fill your home, will you wake up and escape safely'

If you have a smoke alarm, the device's warning signal can rouse you from your sleep and alert you to the danger in your home so you can escape.

Fort Belvoir firefighters and I feel strongly about the importance of working smoke alarms. We're teaming up with the Clark Pinnacle Housing Office in promoting "Test Your Smoke Alarms."

We'll be encouraging children and adults to plan and practice home fire drills so that every person in a household knows how to get out safely if he or she hears the smoke alarm sound.

A fire can grow and spread throughout a home quickly. In fact, you may have as little as two minutes to get out safely once the alarm sounds. With close to 80 percent of all fire deaths occurring in the home, it's easy to see why smoke alarms are essential in every household.

People have been using smoke alarms since the 1970s, when they became available in stores. Since then, they've helped to cut the risk of dying in a fire by nearly half. I wish everyone had a smoke alarm, but, that's not the case. Roughly 70 percent of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Fires in the home kill thousands of people each year. Many of the fire incidents we respond to could have been prevented if safety measures had been followed.

Smoke detectors should be tested once a month using their test buttons. Batteries on smoke alarms should be replaced once a year or sooner if the alarm "chirps," indicating the battery is low.

Replace all smoke alarms after 10 years, even those that are hard-wired or smoke alarms with "long-life" (10-year) batteries. Smoke alarms with "long-life" (10-year) batteries should also be replaced when the alarm "chirps" or fails to respond to periodic testing. The batteries in these units cannot be replaced.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16