March 11, 2021 – As Michiganders move their clocks ahead one hour for daylight saving time this Sunday, LARA Director Orlene Hawks and State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer urge Michiganders to adopt the life-saving habits of changing the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

“Testing your fire alarms to make sure they are working properly greatly increases your chance of surviving a home fire,” said Orlene Hawks, the director of the Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). “Every second counts and smoke alarms provide the warning you and your loved ones need to be able to evacuate safely.”

“It can take as little as three minutes for your home to be totally engulfed in flame and smoke,” said Sehlmeyer. “Working smoke alarms provide life-saving warnings to notify you and your family to evacuate.”

Last year, 122 people died in 101 fires in Michigan, a 21% increase in deaths and a 13% increase in the number of fatal fires as compared to 2019. In these fires, only 35% of homes were reported as having working smoke alarms.

In order to prevent fatal fires, Hawks and Sehlmeyer recommend the following:

  • Never remove or disconnect batteries from detectors unless you are putting a new battery in the smoke alarm.
  • “Press to Test” smoke alarms monthly using the test button.
  • In 9-volt smoke alarms, replace batteries twice a year or when the smoke alarm begins to chirp, signaling that the battery is running low.
  • Install a smoke alarm in every bedroom or sleeping area and have one smoke alarm on every level of the home, including the basement.
  • For added protection, consider an interconnected smoke alarm system, so that when one smoke alarm sounds all the smoke alarms sound in the whole home.
  • Hardwired smoke alarms are more reliable than those powered solely by batteries.
  • Newer smoke alarms come with lithium batteries that can last up to ten years.
  • Every ten years replace all your smoke alarms, or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.
  • Choose alarms that bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing should equip their homes with alert devices such as high intensity strobe lights, and pillow or bed shakers that are activated by the sound of a standard smoke alarm.

It is important that families know two ways out of their home via a prepared-in-advance fire escape plan and practice their plan two times per year. Make sure all family members – especially children – know and follow the family’s escape plan. Children are at an increased risk of dying in a home fire because they can become scared and confused when a fire erupts.

Carbon monoxide alarms are also critically important safety equipment in the home. Carbon monoxide is called the invisible killer as carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelled. Carbon monoxide is produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. This poisonous gas can quickly incapacitate and kill its victims.

Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide alarms need fresh batteries at least once every year, unless they are powered by sealed ten-year batteries. Carbon monoxide alarms should also be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly.

MI Prevention is a statewide program that is working to reduce fire fatalities in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the state. MI Prevention is comprised of more than 400 members from fire departments across the state, the Bureau of Fire Services staff, and representatives from partnering organizations, including the American Red Cross-Michigan Chapter, and support of the NFPA. More information can be found here.