The coming of November means the end of Daylight Savings Time, and safety experts say changing the clocks this weekend gives you the opportunity to change other things around the house and in your life as well.
With time officially changing at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, most people will reset their clocks before going to be Saturday night. Fire experts say that’s also a perfect time to change the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and to inspect your home heating appliances.
Anneta Fire Chief Frank Renfro said the department normally tries to stress that homeowners check those alarm batteries during National Fire Prevention Month in October, but now is a good time if they didn’t do so earlier.
In the United States, roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no functional smoke alarms. Changing the batteries in smoke alarms twice a year is recommended — in major part because that reduces the chance of alarms chirping to indicate low batteries. All too often, a low battery is removed and not replaced, putting a home’s occupants at risk.
Dust or vacuum smoke alarms whenever the battery is changed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the Internet.
Smoke alarms should be installed in every room where an occupant sleeps, outside every sleeping area and on each level of the home, including the basement. Make sure everyone can hear the alarm and knows what it sounds like. For the best protection, equip your home with a combination of ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual-sensor alarms.
Smoke alarms with non-replaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.
Test alarms once a month using the test button. Replace the entire alarm if it’s more than 10 years old or doesn’t work properly when tested.
Another important area to check with the coming of cold weather is your home’s heating system.
“According to national statistics, heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires during the winter months. In fact, half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February,” said William Swope, director of Kentucky’s Division of Fire Prevention. “The National Fire Protection Association estimates that heating equipment was involved in about 58,000 reported home structure fires in 2009, which resulted in 480 civilian deaths, 1,520 injuries and cost more than $1 billion in property damage.
Swope suggested following NFPA’s checklist for a safe cold weather season, including:
* Testing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they are working.
* Having furnaces inspected and serviced.
* Having chimneys and vents inspected and serviced.
* Making sure wood used for fireplaces or wood stoves is dry and seasoned.
* Making sure fireplace screens are metal or heat-tempered glass.
* Having a covered metal container ready to use to dispose of cooled fireplace or stove ashes.
* Making sure children know to stay at least three feet away from fireplaces, stoves and space heaters.
* Making sure space heaters have automatic shut-offs, are plugged directly into outlets and are at least three feet from anything that can burn.
Many people will take advantage of the time change to sleep a little later on Sunday morning. Experts say that many, though, are not actually gaining sleep because they stay up later on Saturday night.
“The time change is more than turning the clock back,” said Dr. Sam Fleishman, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “It’s a once-a year-opportunity to reset your body clock for an extra hour of sleep every night.”
He said people can permanently increase their nightly sleep by going to bed one hour earlier, because their bodies think it’s the same time they went to bed last night.
For instance you normally sleep from midnight to 6 a.m. for six hours of sleep. After the time change, if you go to bed at 11 p.m., your body will think it’s midnight. So if you sleep until the clock says 6 a.m., you’re now getting seven hours of sleep.
“Adding an hour to your nightly sleep this way is the best opportunity to make sleep a priority in your life,” Fleishman said.
A Canadian study warns that traffic accidents can increase in the afternoons in the two weeks following the end of Daylight Savings Time.
Besides the disruptions to the body’s natural sleeping and waking patterns, people will be commuting more in darkness as the days grow shorter.
All that can impact concentration, alertness behind the wheel and reaction time to potential hazards, according to the study.
Pedestrians — especially those walking early in the morning and in the late afternoon/early evening — should make sure they wear bright or reflective clothing to help drivers spot them.
Experts also caution walkers to watch out for motorists’ blind spots and to not wear headphones or talk on a cell phone while crossing the street.