PARKERSBURG - When clocks fall back and daylight-saving time ends early Sunday morning, local fire officials recommend residents take the time to check their smoke alarms.
"'Change your clock, change your batteries' is a pretty simple phrase that can do so much good," said Parkersburg Fire Inspector Mike Beckett. "It's been a long tradition for us to use that phrase and remind people that the only useful smoke alarm is a working one."
Belpre Safety-Service Director Dave Ferguson said that the latest house fires in the area, including one in Belpre that killed a 2-year-old girl last month, give smoke detectors and checking the batteries more importance in people's minds.
"The tragic events in the last six months could have been not as horrible if working smoke detectors had been in the homes," Ferguson said.
Beckett said that the time change is a good reminder for people to change the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
"Smoke detectors are the first line of defense during a house fire and reduce the risk of death by 50 percent," he said. "People need to remember that the majority of house fires take place in the early morning hours when everyone is asleep and a smoke detector will give them the extra minutes needed to wake up and get to safety."
Daylight-saving time will end at 2 a.m. Sunday when clocks should be changed back to standard time and an hour added to the day.
Area fire and safety officials said the time change is the perfect time to check and change batteries in smoke detectors.
More than 90 percent of homes in the United States have smoke detectors, but one-third are estimated to have dead or missing batteries.
"Without a fresh battery, you might as well not have a smoke detector," Beckett said.
Batteries should be replaced in smoke detectors at least once a year and all smoke detectors have a life expectancy of 10 years and should be replaced entirely every decade.
Along with smoke detectors, Beckett said everyone needs to have a family escape plan and meeting place outside.
There should be one smoke detector in every sleeping room and at least one on each floor of a home.
"It is West Virginia State Code and law to have detectors working in every home - even rental properties," Beckett said.
Ferguson said the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department has free smoke detectors for residents who need them and firefighters will come to homes to install them, if they are needed.
"If you don't have a smoke detector, let the department know and if you know someone who needs one, let them know," Ferguson said. "This can save lives."
The Parkersburg Fire Department has smoke detectors available to low to moderate income families in Parkersburg through a Community Development Block Grant fund.
Beckett also said that city firefighters are available to properly install smoke detectors and will change detector batteries for city residents with disabilities.
To contact the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department, call (470) 423-9681.
To contact the Parkersburg Fire Department, call (304) 424-8470.
In the U.S., clocks are to be set back one hour at 2 a.m. Sunday. This time was originally chosen as the changeover time because it is practical and minimized disruption. Most people are at home and it is late enough to minimally affect bars and restaurants, and it prevents the day from switching to yesterday on some devices.