FORT LEE, Va. (March 14, 2013) -- As a reminder, Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services encourages residents to check their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Check the manufacturer’s expiration date on the label of the smoke alarm, replace batteries if needed and clean off any dust or debris.

Smoke alarms have become such a common feature in U.S. homes that it is easy to take them for granted. Smoke alarms are appliances just like toasters, televisions and furnaces. Unlike other appliances, these devices function quietly in the background. Its alarm, in response to a real smoke situation or to testing, is the only evidence that it works. A stereo that does not play will not lead to tragedy, but a worn-out smoke alarm failing to sound in a fire could. This is the reason that all smoke alarms (hard-wired and/or battery-powered) should be replaced every 10 years.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the peak time for home fire fatalities is between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most families are sleeping. Are you aware that most people lose their sense of smell during a deep sleep stage and will not wake up? The death rate per 100 reported fires is twice as high in homes without a working smoke alarm as it is in home fires with this protection.

Missing or non-working smoke alarms rob residents of valuable seconds that could allow them to safely escape. Young children, older adults and people with disabilities are most at risk and working smoke alarms may provide these residents the necessary time to safely evacuate.

It is easy to forget that a smoke alarm’s sole function is to sound the warning. People need to develop and practice escape plans so that if the alarm sounds, they can get out quickly.

It’s imperative that home escape plans include two exits from each room and a designated meeting place outside. Once you’re outside, stay outside and be sure to let firefighters know if everyone has made it out safely. These simple steps will help ensure that you and your family will have the best chance of surviving if fire should strike. Remind your friends, family, neighbors and fellow community members to do the same.

Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services actively promotes fire safety to all who work, live and visit Fort Lee. For any questions or assistance, contact the Fire Prevention Office at (804) 734-6597.