Daylight saving means time to check smoke alarms
Craig Teter is unsure what caused him to wake up in the early morning hours of Oct. 12, but he is grateful he did.
The Rifle resident and father of three got up around 2:30 that morning — an unusual move for the usually heavy sleeper — to a light haze in his bedroom. When he opened the bedroom door he discovered thick smoke filling the house.
One by one he grabbed each child, rushed them out of the house and headed back in for the next. By about 2:40 a.m. the family was outside and Teter was calling 911. The family dog died in the incident.
“I lost my dog but the kids and I all got out … which is very fortunate,” Teter said.
He still does not know what woke him up. Teter, who had never owned a home with smoke detectors prior to this one, disabled all three detectors after they were repeatedly triggered by smoke from cooking.
Fire officials say it’s an occurrence that happens too often.
The experience served as a lesson that Teter will not forget.
“I would just stress to everyone that if you don’t know for sure, definitely talk to someone that does. It’s not a good situation to go through — what we’ve gone through.”
The fire was one of two recent ones in the Colorado River Fire Rescue (CRFR) district where there were no working smoke detectors in the homes. None of the occupants were injured in either fire, and officials are hoping both incidents will remind residents of the importance of having working smoke detectors.
And with clocks rolling back one hour on Sunday for daylight saving time — which often serves as the annual reminder for replacing smoke detector batteries — those same officials are stressing the issue.
“We’ve been lucky that nobody was hurt … in both homes the parties were able to evacuate,” said Orrin Moon, CRFR fire marshal.
The occurrence of two fires in homes without working smoke detectors in less than a month grabbed Moon’s attention.
“For the most part, especially in residential homes, everybody is pretty good about keeping the smoke detectors working,” he said.
The issue is a rare occurrence within the jurisdiction of the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, which does not see many structure fires, said Ron Biggers, deputy fire marshal for the department.
But both Biggers and Moon point to national statistics to stress the importance of working smoke detectors.
Three of every five home fire deaths in the U.S. occurred in homes with either no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, according to a 2015 report by the National Fire Protection Association.
The same report states that smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries in almost half of the incidents where a smoke alarm was present but did not operate. Dead batteries were responsible for 24 percent of smoke alarm failures.
“Change your batteries when you change your clocks,” Moon said in repeating the saying used around this time of year when clocks are set back an hour.
Along with replacing batteries and checking to make sure detectors are in working order, Moon said smoke detectors need to be replaced every 10 years. When installing detectors, it’s important that they be placed per the manufacturer’s instructions, he added.
Biggers said those building a new home or doing significant remodeling work also can install home sprinkler systems.
Families also should have an escape plan in place and practice at night.
“We stress home evacuation plans — they write those up and practice them … at night so they know what to do at night when it’s pitch black,” Biggers said.
Residents can call the local fire departments for more information on smoke alarms and general fire safety.
For Teter, he said that is exactly what he will do the next time around.
“I know I’ll go through the right steps next time.”
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