ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- For some of you, one of the signs of spring may not be the friendly robin chirping outside your window, but the "chirping" smoke detector letting you know it's time to replace the battery. This chirping can be annoying, but that's the point.

The right response to the chirping is not to rip the smoke alarm off the ceiling or remove the battery. The right response is to make sure you keep you and your family safe by replacing that battery.

Some states, like Maryland, have changed state laws and now require 10-year battery hard-wired smoke and carbon monoxide, or CO, detectors. The laws were changed because some homeowners would get frustrated with the chirping, remove the batteries and make their detectors useless.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 66 percent of home fire deaths occurred in homes without a working smoke alarm. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.

As we move the clocks forward March 8 for Daylight Saving Time, do not forget to check your smoke and CO alarms. This simple act can save your life or others in the event of an emergency.

A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you're awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke.

Anything that burns fuel can potentially become a source of carbon monoxide, an invisible, odorless gas that can kill. CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each bedroom and on every level of the home. The safety tips for CO detectors mirror those of smoke alarms: change the batteries, test them and interconnect them, if possible. Also, make sure vents for your gas appliances (fireplace, dryer, stove and furnace) are free and clear of snow or debris.

Smoke and CO alarms are powered by battery or they are hardwired into the home's electrical system. There are also plug-in CO alarms that come with a battery back-up feature. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable 9-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium ("long-life") battery. A backup battery is usually present on hardwired alarms and may need to be replaced.

These batteries must be tested on a regular basis and, in most cases, should be replaced at least once each year (except for lithium batteries).

Install smoke and CO alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or early in the morning, so the U.S. Fire Administration recommends installing smoke alarms both inside and outside of sleeping areas.

Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends you follow these smoke alarm tips:

  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
  • Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound, (this may require some assistance from a certified electrician).
  • Test alarms each month by pushing the test button.
  • Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond properly.
  • Make sure everyone in the home knows the sound and understands what to do when they hear the smoke alarm.

Learn more about smoke and CO detectors and fire safety by visiting the U.S. Fire Administration website at https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/technology/.

The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through population-based monitoring, investigations, and technical consultations.