You have three minutes. When a fire starts in your home, the clock starts ticking, and you have just three precious minutes to escape. That’s why when we turn back the clocks this weekend, we are reminded to check our smoke detectors.

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30 years ago, experts estimated we had 17 minutes to safely escape a fire. That has dwindled down to a scant three minutes today because of highly flammable synthetics and open floor plans according to the National Fire Protection Association.

That chirp. That absolutely annoying chirp when the battery is dying on your smoke detector. How often have you listened to that chirp and just disconnected the battery to make that grating sound stop. You intend to go back in and put in a fresh battery, but you forget. I know I’m guilty. That oversight can kill your family. The NFPA says about three out of every five home fire deaths in the United States result from homes without working smoke alarms. In most cases, the battery had been disconnected.

NFPA Facts and figures about smoke alarms

  • In 2012-2016, smoke alarms sounded in more than half (53%) of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments.
  • Almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (40%) or no working smoke alarms (17%).
  • No smoke alarms were present in two out of every five (40%) home fire deaths.
  • The death rate per 1,000 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms compared to the rate in homes with working smoke alarms (12.3 deaths vs. 5.7 deaths per 1,000 fires).
  • In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, more than two of every five (43%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries.
  • Dead batteries caused one-quarter (25%) of the smoke alarm failures.

When you check the batteries on your smoke detectors this weekend, also check the manufacturing date. Smoke detectors need to be replaced every ten years.