April 3, 2003
CPSC Urges Consumers to Change Smoke
Alarm Batteries When Changing Clocks for Daylight Saving Time
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges consumers to change
their smoke alarm batteries when changing their clock for Daylight Saving
Time this Sunday, April 6. CPSC estimates that about 16 million homes in the
U.S. have smoke alarms that do not work. In most cases, the batteries are
dead or missing.
In a recent year, nearly 2,700 people died and more than 15,000 were injured
because of fires that started in their homes. These fires resulted in
property losses of more than $3.5 billion. Children are particularly
vulnerable. Each year about 700 children under the age of 15 die of
fire-related causes and about 400 of these deaths are to children under the
age of 5 years. Most deaths occur from fires that start at night while
families are asleep. Four times as many victims die from inhaling smoke and
toxic gases as from burns.
"The Commission works to prevent fires by developing and enforcing safety
standards for products. For example, we have federal standards for
child-resistant cigarette lighters, for wearing apparel, for children's
sleepwear, and for carpets and rugs," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "We
are working on standards to prevent fires for products such as water heaters
and electrical wiring. But, if a fire starts, you need a working smoke alarm
to warn you and save your life."
A CPSC goal to reduce the death rate from fires is one of the strategic
areas in which the agency is focussing its efforts. "Through safety
standards for products, we hope to prevent fires from starting," said
Stratton. "We continually work to strengthen smoke alarm performance and
installation requirements. Additionally, we are currently studying the
audibility of smoke alarms with young children and older people to help
improve reliability and effectiveness."
About 90 percent of U.S. households have smoke alarms installed. However, a
CPSC survey estimated that 20 percent of those households, about 16 million,
did not have any working alarms. CPSC recommends consumers test each smoke
alarm every month to make sure it is working properly. Change batteries at
least once a year. Long-life smoke alarms with 10-year batteries have been
available to consumers since 1995. These long-life alarms also should be
CPSC recommends consumers place smoke alarms that meet the requirements of a
professional testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), on
each level of multi-story homes outside sleeping areas, and inside bedrooms.