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M'ville Fire District reminds residents to check their fire alarms when they 'spring forward'

MARYSVILLE — As the time change approaches March 8, the Marysville Fire District wants to remind residents to check something that could save their lives — the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

"We've had far too many fatalities due to residential fires in the last year here in Snohomish County," said Kristen Thorstenson, public education specialist and public information officer for the Marysville Fire District. She noted that an average of three children a day die in home fires, and 80 percent of those occur in homes without working smoke alarms. She added that the most commonly cited cause of non-working smoke alarms is worn or missing batteries.

"Non-working smoke alarms rob residents of the protective benefits that home fire safety devices were designed to provide," Thorstenson said. "Changing smoke alarm batteries at least once a year is one of the simplest, most effective ways to reduce these tragic deaths and injuries. If you have a smoke alarm with a 10-year lithium battery, there isn't a need to replace it, but be sure to check it!"

According to Thorstenson, working smoke alarms nearly cut in half the risk of dying in a home fire, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends replacing your smoke alarms every ten years.

Marysville Fire Chief Greg Corn explained that the peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when most families are sleeping.

"Smoke alarm maintenance is a simple, effective way to reduce home fire deaths," Corn said. "Children and senior citizens are most at risk, and a working smoke alarm can give them the extra seconds they need to get out safely."

Corn recommends residents use the time change to come up with and practice their home fire escape plans.

Thorstenson pointed out that fire can kill selectively, and those most at risk include:

- Children. Approximately 600 children under the age of 20 die each year in home fires. Children under the age of 5 are at twice as likely to die in a home fire, and among children, 80 percent of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Last fall in Snohomish County, four children died in home fires. Studies have shown children often do not wake up to the noise of a typical smoke alarm. If this is true of your children, be sure to purchase an alarm that you can record your voice on, since children are more likely to wake up to the sound of your voice.

- Seniors. Adults over the age of 75 are three times more likely to die in home fires than the rest of the population, and those over 85 are 4.5 times more likely to die in a home fire. Many seniors are unable to escape quickly. If you have seniors who might not hear as well as they used to, they might not wake up to the noise of a typical alarm. There are smoke alarms designed for people who are hard of hearing.

- Low-income households. Many low-income families are unable to afford batteries for their smoke alarms. These same households often rely on poorly installed, maintained or misused portable or area heating equipment, which is one of the main causes of fatal home fires. Many local fire departments have smoke alarms and batteries available.

For more information about fire safety, call the Marysville Fire District at 360-363-8507, or log onto their Web site.

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