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Minister urges households to change smoke alarm batteries

Published: 30th March 2009

Minister for Emergency Services Steve Whan today issued an urgent warning to all households to make sure they had a working smoke alarm.

"We are entering the deadliest time of year for house fires in NSW as the colder weather forces us to spend more time indoors and we increase reliance on heating, lighting and electrical appliances in the home," Mr Whan said.

The NSW Fire Brigades (NSWFB) and Rural Fire Service (RFS) last year attended almost 5000 house fires, which tragically claimed 21 lives.

Speaking at the national launch of the Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery education campaign in Sydney, Mr Whan urged householders to take the time to increase their chances of surviving a house fire.

"I urge you to take a few minutes to change the batteries in your smoke alarms when you move your clocks back on Sunday, April 5, at the end of Daylight Saving," he said.

NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins said it could take only a few minutes for smoke to become deadly and for flames to spread and engulf a home.

"Smoke kills more people than flames in house fires," Commissioner Mullins said.

"If you're asleep at the time of a fire, the smoke is full of toxic gases and may numb your senses and put you into a deeper sleep.

"The high-pitched sound of a smoke alarm is designed to wake you and other family members so you can escape safely."

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said a working smoke alarm could provide a critical early warning.

"A working smoke alarm and a home escape plan can give you the early warning and crucial minutes and seconds needed to safely escape a fire.

"Only a working smoke alarm can alert you, so it is vital you test your smoke alarm monthly and change the batteries annually," he said.

The NSW Government introduced legislation in May 2006 making it mandatory to have a working smoke alarm on every level of buildings in which people sleep.

"We urge all NSW residents to take just a few minutes to change their smoke alarm batteries to ensure their families will be safer," Mr Whan said.

Mr Whan said the NSW fire services had a range of programs to increase awareness of fire safety in the home and save lives.

"Under the Fire Brigades' Smoke Alarm Battery Replacement for the Elderly program, seniors or people with a disability can contact the Brigades if they need help with changing their smoke alarm battery and local firefighters can install smoke alarms for the elderly," he said.

The Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery campaign is supported by Duracell.

For more information on smoke alarms, visit the website www.fire.nsw.gov.au or www.rfs.nsw.gov.au.