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Firefighters group advises checking smoke, carbon monoxide detectors

Posted 11/3/22

Daylight Saving Time will end on Sunday, Nov. 6, where all households will need to set their clocks back one hour at 2 a.m.

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Firefighters group advises checking smoke, carbon monoxide detectors

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Daylight Saving Time will end on Sunday, Nov. 6, where all households will need to set their clocks back one hour at 2 a.m.

The good news is that we’ll all get an extra hour of much needed sleep; the bad news, according to the Firefighters Association of the State of New York, is that some people will forget to use the occasion to check and change the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

“The most dangerous time of year for home fires is upon us. All New Yorkers should ensure their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly,” said FASNY President Edward Tase Jr. in a release. “We encourage you to replace your fire alarm every 10 years and check your alarm each month. Help us prevent tragedies by protecting your home with smoke alarms on every level and outside sleeping areas.”

Alarms with removable batteries should have their batteries replaced, FASNY officials said. Alarms that have sealed-in batteries should be checked to ensure they are functioning properly.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, the risk of dying in a home without working smoke detectors is 55% higher than in a home with fully-functioning alarms. Additionally, three of every five home fire deaths are in residences without working smoke alarms.

New York State enacted legislation in 2019 that required all new smoke detectors to contain 10-year, nonremovable batteries that discourage tampering. If you’re not sure when you last replaced the batteries or bought a smoke alarm, FASNY encourages purchasing a new one. 

Smoke alarms provide critical minutes to escape the home in an emergency, officials said.

Another vital tool is a carbon monoxide detector, which can warn of a silent but deadly gas build-up in the home. As the weather gets colder and snow begins to fall, New Yorkers should conduct a home safety check to ensure that CO detectors are functioning properly.

Safety tips:

Test alarms at least once a month by using the test button.

If you have a smoke alarm with a removable battery, be sure to check the batteries every six months and change the batteries at least every year. If a battery is starting to lose its power, the unit will usually chirp to warn you. Do not disable the unit.

Vacuum or blow out any dust that might accumulate in the unit.

Never borrow a battery from an alarm to use somewhere else. 

Never paint a smoke or CO alarm.

Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home, including the basement and in or near each sleeping area. 

Smoke alarms should not be installed near a window because drafts could interfere with their operation. 

Families should also develop and practice a home fire escape plan.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for testing smoke alarms and replacing the batteries.

“Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are the first line of defense against a tragedy,” said Tase. “Unfortunately, we see the majority of home fire fatalities in homes with no smoke alarms or in homes where they aren’t working properly. This Sunday is a great reminder to do a safety checkup on the home — check your smoke alarms and CO detectors and ensure everyone knows how to get out of the home in an emergency.”

Carbon monoxide safety

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that could be deadly if undetected. It’s produced when fuels such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, wood and wood pellets, kerosene, gasoline and coal don’t burn off completely, say officials with National Grid, the region’s main energy supplier.

Potential sources of carbon monoxide in the home include forced-air furnaces, kerosene-fueled space heaters, natural gas ranges, wood stoves, water heaters, fireplaces, and motor vehicles.

We should know and be able to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, National Grid advises, such as headaches, weakness, confusion, blurred vision, shortness of breath or chest tightness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and sleepiness or loss of consciousness. Prolonged exposure and the amount of carbon monoxide in the air may intensify the symptoms felt by an individual.

Customers suspecting its presence in their home should:

  • Immediately exit the premises. Call 911 and report a carbon monoxide emergency to first responders;
  • Contact National Grid’s gas emergency line at 1-800-892-2345; and
  • Do not reenter the home until first responders and/or National Grid find the source and clear the scene.

National Grid recommends the installation of Underwriters Laboratory approved home carbon monoxide detectors, available at home improvement and discount stores, on every floor of a home.

National Grid also offers the additional safety tips to help identify and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Use licensed contractors to check heating sources to ensure they are burning fuel safely and efficiently while venting properly;
  • Check chimneys or flues for debris, bird nests or other blockages;
  • Be sure space heaters and wood stoves are in good working order, adequately ventilated, and used according to manufacturer’s instructions;
  • Operate gas ovens and/or ranges safely. Never use an oven for heating purposes. Be mindful of children and how close they are to the oven when in use. Inspect the oven for pungent odors or soot on its surface, as this may indicate improper combustion and carbon monoxide generation;
  • Never burn coal or charcoal in an enclosed space;
  • Backup generators should always be operated outdoors. Place the generator on a level, fireproof surface at least six feet from the home and run cords indoors when operating. Open windows and doors do not provide sufficient ventilation;
  • Don’t warm up an automobile while it’s parked in a garage, regardless of whether the door is open. Carbon monoxide produced by a motor vehicle in a confined space can build to lethal levels and easily spread to the inside of the home.

Detecting natural gas odors

• If a gas leak is suspected, assume there’s danger. Immediately warn others and evacuate the home, taking any pets.

• Do not use the telephone or any electric devices such as light switches, garage door openers, doorbells, radios, televisions, or mobile devices. A spark from any of these sources could ignite the gas, causing a fire or explosion.

• From a safe location, call 911 and National Grid’s gas emergency line at 1-800-892-2345.

• Do not reenter the home or building until National Grid personnel clear the scene.

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