CPSC and GAMA Issue Consumer Alert

October 25, 2005
Release Number: 06015

Don't Forget to Replace Smoke and CO Alarm Batteries This Weekend as Daylight Saving Time Ends

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) are joining forces to urge consumers to replace the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms when changing their clocks this Sunday, October 30th.

"Working smoke and CO alarms can help protect your family from a fire or carbon monoxide (CO) hazard in your home," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "Take the time to put fresh batteries in your alarms. That simple step could save your life."

"CO is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas that consumers cannot see or smell," said GAMA President Jack Klimp. "We are concerned that consumers may not be sufficiently aware of all the potential sources for CO in the home. These sources include an automobile engine running in an attached garage; a fuel-burning appliance that is installed improperly or connected to a blocked or leaking vent system; or a portable gasoline-powered generator, charcoal grill or camp stove improperly used indoors."

In addition to replacing batteries in smoke and CO alarms at least once every year, CPSC recommends testing them monthly. Smoke alarms should be placed on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom. CO alarms should be installed outside each sleeping area. Battery backup is an important consideration for those alarms that are powered by your home's electrical system.

In 1999, an estimated 2,390 people died in residential fires, 14,550 were injured and 337,000 residential fires were reported to fire departments.

Recent studies indicate that children under 16 and hearing-impaired older adults may not always be awakened by smoke alarms. Therefore, CPSC recommends that home fire escape plans factor in a family member who does not respond to the smoke alarm and that escape drills be practiced during the day and night. CPSC staff is looking into ways to improve smoke alarm audibility for children as well as hearing-impaired older adults.

While about 90 percent of homes have smoke alarms, far fewer have carbon monoxide alarms. Between 1999 and 2002, carbon monoxide associated with consumer products killed an average of about 140 people each year.

According to CPSC and GAMA, a CO alarm provides an added measure of protection against carbon monoxide poisoning from all potential sources in the home. The best way to make sure that gas appliances do not become a source of CO is to have a professional inspect your installed appliances annually.

Remember to never use gasoline-powered generators, camp stoves, and charcoal grills indoors or in enclosed spaces. They can generate high levels of deadly carbon monoxide.

Both CPSC and GAMA recommend consumers purchase CO alarms that meet the requirements of UL 2034 or CSA 6.19.