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Time to test your smoke alarms

Now that we've turned out clocks ahead one hour, it's an important reminder to check that we have working smoke alarms.

PORTLAND, Maine — Daylight Saving Time started this past Sunday, and the American Red Cross of Northern New England wants every Mainer to test their smoke alarms and request them if you don't have enough in your home.

"We also provide home fire safety education materials," Steve Thomas, executive director for the American Red Cross in Southern Maine, said. "Make an appointment, [and we will] come to your house, install the smoke alarms, and teach you a little bit about fire safety, fire prevention, and help you make an escape plan to get you and your family out of your home in two minutes or less." 

According to the American Red Cross, working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half. That’s why it’s critical to follow these steps:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year if your model requires it.
  • Replace smoke alarms that are 10 years or older. That’s because the sensor becomes less sensitive over time. Check the date of your smoke alarms and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • Practice your two-minute escape plan. Make sure everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes — the amount of time you may have to get out of a burning home before it’s too late. Include at least two ways to get out from every room and select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows where to meet.
  • Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like. Talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.

"You only have two minutes. When that smoke alarm goes off, you need to have a well-rehearsed plan to get you and your family out of your home into safety," Thomas said. "The reason for that is because we have a lot of synthetic materials in our homes now that burn very quickly. Combine that with things like open floor plans, and fires can spread super fast in the home. You can easily underestimate how much time you can have, so making an escape plan is really important, and having multiple smoke alarm also very important."

The American Red Cross is installing free smoke alarms in homes across the state. If you need a free smoke alarm, sign-up today at redcross.org/EndHomeFiresNNE or call 1-800-464-6692 and click option 4.

You can also visit redcross.org/fire for more fire safety information, including an escape plan to practice with your family.

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