Spring ahead, but change batteries, be wary on the road

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It’s that time again — we lose an hour of sleep, but gain a precious hour of sunlight in the evening, meaning more time outside and the coming prospect of firing up those grills (Tuesday’s snowstorm forecast notwithstanding) — Daylight Savings Time starts early Sunday, so don’t forget to change your clocks.

But, as usual, there’s a few more things to remember:

State Fire Commissioner Tim Solobay is reminding you to change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when changing your clocks this weekend.

“You should get into the habit of changing your clocks and batteries, and practicing your home fire escape plan with your family all in the same weekend,” Solobay said. “These simple things are among the best steps you can take to keep your loved ones safe if there’s a fire in your home.”

Solobay said working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half, and worn or missing batteries are the most common cause of a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector malfunction.

And if that wasn’t enough, local firefighters are making the same argument:

“Saving your life can be as simple as changing your smoke alarm batteries once a year and replacing smoke alarms every seven to 10 years,” says Jim Lentz, a 16 year veteran fire fighter with IAFF Local 3790.  Special smoke alarms are even available for those who are deaf or hearing-impaired. 

The NFPA reports that working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Research has also demonstrated that photoelectric smoke alarms are more effective at warning people of smoke from smoldering fires than ionization smoke alarms. With earlier warning, people have more time to escape a burning structure and to call 9-1-1.

Your local fire fighters recommend installing a dual purpose smoke alarm in every bedroom, outside of every bedroom and on each floor of your home.

“You should also install carbon monoxide alarms in your home and check them once a month,” says Mike Pawlowski, Coatesville IAFF President. Carbon monoxide (CO) – an invisible poisonous gas that has no odor can be lethal and CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.

More than 2,300 people die each year in home fires. Having a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm that works 24 hours a day greatly increases your chance of survival if your home catches on fire.

In the case of an emergency, please call 9-1-1 for the help of your local fire fighters, they note.

One last thing: it will again be dark in the early morning hours, which means the potential for automotive concerns, namely seeing students and other pedestrians on roadways during the morning commute and drivers might find themselves sleep deprived:

“Most people will see a dramatic difference during their morning commute on Monday, as roadways remain darker longer, causing concern for pedestrians,” said Jana L. Tidwell, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “Motorists and pedestrians, including school students waiting at bus stops, need to be aware of these dangers, remain alert, and minimize distractions to reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes.”

Losing an hour of sleep can also increase a motorist’s risk of drowsy driving.  In a recent AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index report, nearly one in three drivers (32 percent) confessed they were so tired they drove drowsy during the previous 30 days. The study also found that nearly all drivers (97 percent) view sleepy drivers as a very serious threat to their personal safety.

Drowsy driving is involved in more than one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year. In Pennsylvania, PennDOT reports that in 2015, 2,606 crashes and 19 fatalities were attributed to drowsy drivers.

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