SCHINNEN, Netherlands - You've likely travelled enough to have heard airline attendants remind you before the plane takes off that the removing, tampering or disabling a smoke detector is strictly prohibited. Well, the same is true for smoke detectors in government quarters or barracks.

That's why USAG Schinnen fire safety officials are reminding residents in government leased housing that disabling of smoke detectors is prohibited and with the "spring forward" time change March 28 it's also a good time to ensure smoke detector batteries are refreshed in all our homes.

"We can't inspect every resident and we're concerned about a couple things. First, disconnecting a smoke detector installed in government leased quarters is not allowed and, second, whether you live in government leased or private rental quarters - now is the time to ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order," Rob Walraven, USAG Schinnen Fire Chief said.

"If there is a fire, residents in government leased housing may have the injuries or deaths of family or friends on their conscious as well as the liability for the property damage caused by a fire if the evidence confirms that they disabled or tampered with the smoke detector - and no one wants that," Walraven said.

If residents are experiencing nuisance alarms or if a smoke detector is malfunctioning, then they should contact the USAG Schinnen DPW work order reception desk at +31(0)46-4437215 to schedule an electrician to investigate and repair the detector.

Smoke detectors are a very important device that can alarm occupants to a fire hazard and save lives "Smoke detectors don't prevent fires, they simply warn you that there is smoke and at a fire has started or is in the initial phase of a becoming a fire. Smoke and fire can spread quickly and be very deadly," Walraven said.

"The value of a smoke detector, which often costs less than $10, is to give you a chance to take action while there is time to initiate an evacuation, to call the Fire Department, and maybe enough time to extinguish a fire before it causes extensive property damage or destroys lifelong memories," Walraven said.

In the United Sates, smoke alarms play a vital role in reducing deaths and injuries from fire and have contributed to an approximate 50 percent decrease in fire deaths since the late 1970's. Properly installed and maintained, smoke detectors save lives and protect against injury and loss.

A 2004 telephone survey taken in the U.S. found that 96 percent of U.S. households had at least one smoke detector, but from 2003 to 2006, smoke alarms sounded in only half of reported home fires.

"It's not enough to have a smoke detector. Smoke detectors must be properly installed and sustained with fresh batteries or a constant power source. Homes or apartments should also have more than one detector," Walraven said.

From 2003 to 2006, 63 percent of reported home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke detectors. Two-thirds of the fire deaths occurred in homes with no working smoke detectors. In one of every five home equipped with one or more smoke detector installed, not a single one was working.

When smoke detectors fail, it is most often due to missing, disconnected or dead batteries. Nuisance activations were the leading reason why residents disabled smoke detectors. Nuisance alarms can be avoided by simply installing detectors in the right location or remembering to cook with the exhaust fan turned on.

"We're serious about protecting your life, the lives of your family and guests, as well as the Army's property. We're also serious about expecting government leased housing residents to respect the rules about not tampering with, destroying or disconnecting smoke detectors. Call it operational readiness, family readiness or simply being able to wake up to enjoy every new day, smoke detectors are there for a reason and need to be left to serve their purpose," Walraven said.

Occupants of government leased housing should be aware of chapter 11-1 in the USAG Schinnen housing manual, which states that disabling smoke detectors strictly prohibited and subject to disciplinary sanctions by the commander.

For more information or to resolve a problem with your smoke detector, call Directorate of Emergency Service Office at +31(0)46-4437230.

Stay fire smart! Don't get burned!