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Change batteries: Smoke alarms save lives, if they work

Since Daylight Saving Time began last weekend, it's also time to "Change Your Clock, Change Your Batteries."

The campaign, sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the makers of Energizer batteries, was created 22 years ago after statistics showed that non-working smoke alarms too often contributed to home fire fatalities.

Approximately 92 percent of American homes have smoke alarms, but nearly one-third of them contain dead batteries or the batteries have been removed for use elsewhere. Statistically, working alarms increase your chances of surviving a fire by 50 percent, according to State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl.

In Minnesota, there were 31 residential fire deaths in 2007; eight took place in homes where alarms were missing or inoperable. In the remaining cases, five fatalities occurred in homes with working smoke alarms and six occurred in homes where alarms were not an issue (suicide, explosion, etc.). In the remaining 12 cases, it was not possible to determine whether working alarms were present.

Rosendahl urges Minnesotans to make sure there are alarms on each floor of their homes and one within ten feet of every bedroom door. He recommends testing alarms once a month and creating a home fire escape plan

"I hope that every Minnesotan will take time this weekend not only to adjust their clocks, but to change their batteries, too," Rosendahl said. "These devices can save your life -- but only if they work."

For detailed information about smoke alarm use and maintenance, along with Minnesota fire statistics from other years, go to the State Fire Marshal Web site at