By Kat Stelly
Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
Copyright 2006 The Times-Picayune Publishing Company
October is National Fire Prevention Month, and Marrero Estelle Volunteer Fire Company is again participating in the "Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery" program.
"Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery" is a national initiative that, for the past 14 years, has encouraged people to change the batteries in their smoke alarms at the same time that they change their clocks back an hour to standard time.
Local residents can pick up 9-volt smoke detector batteries at no charge at the fire station Saturday and Sunday. The fire station is at 2248 Barataria Blvd., just before Ehret Road. There is a limit of three free batteries per household.
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Carolyn Douglas, who works with the public education and fire prevention programs at Marrero Estelle, said that smoke detectors improve the chances of surviving a structure fire by giving early warning of smoke. Approximately 70 percent of home fire deaths occur in houses with no smoke detectors or no working smoke detectors, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The extra seconds to escape that a smoke alarm provides can mean the difference between life and death. The International Association of Fire Chiefs, the organization that originated the program, has a few simple guidelines to follow that will ensure all smoke detectors are in good working order.
All you have to remember is "Change, check, count and clean":
* Change your smoke detector batteries each year when you change your clocks back to standard time. A fresh, high-quality battery will protect you throughout the year.
* Check your smoke detectors by activating the safety test button after changing the batteries. Ideally, all smoke detectors should be checked once a month. Count your smoke detectors to make sure you have enough protection. There should be a smoke detector in every bedroom, and in every hallway directly adjacent to bedrooms. There should be one on every level of the house. If you aren't sure how many you need for your house, ask the folks at the fire station for advice.
* Clean your smoke detectors. Clean dust and cobwebs from smoke detectors once a month when you test them. Make sure paint or any type of debris hasn't blocked the sensor. The sensors on smoke detectors are constantly working, 24 hours a day.
Even with regular testing, it's recommended that smoke detectors be replaced with new ones every 10 years.
Finally, make sure that everyone in your family recognizes the sound of the smoke detector, and knows what to do if it goes off. Planning and practicing an escape route is a crucial factor in surviving a house fire.
The National Fire Prevention Association has information on planning an escape route, and other fire safety tips, on its Web site: . Or, ask at the fire station for additional safety information.