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You wouldn’t play with snakes, so why play with fire?

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04 Apr 2014
The 'Change your clock, change your smoke alarm battery’ campaign provides vital life-saving message

The majority of Australian parents are more afraid of house fire than some of the most common phobias like snakes, spiders and sharks. Despite this, checking their smoke alarm is not top of their annual household maintenance list.

This weekend MFB and CFA are again reminding all Victorians to change their smoke alarm batteries when they change their clocks back to mark the end of daylight saving.

Above: Firefighters from Port Melbourne Fire Station (FS39 C platoon) got up close and personal with creepy crawlies at the campaign launch at Docklands.

The 2014 Duracell Fire Safety Survey, released today, found that as many as 70 per cent of parents are not planning ahead and organising to change the batteries in their smoke alarms every year, instead relying on random prompts from family and friends, news reminders or simply waiting until the smoke alarm starts to beep before replacing them.

In fact, 43 per cent of Victorian parents only changed smoke alarm batteries when prompted by the smoke alarm beep, indicating the battery had gone flat or that the unit had a fault.

Other risky behaviour includes not changing the smoke alarm batteries yearly (20 per cent) and disconnecting the alarm in response to a false alarm. One in four of those surveyed who do this, admit to forgetting to reconnect their smoke alarm for days, months and even longer.

New figures show that there were more than 11,000 house fires across Australia in 2013, including 3559 attended by MFB and CFA. Tragically, home fire in Victoria resulted in 13 deaths last year.

MFB and CFA together with long-term partner Duracell are now in their 14th year of encouraging Victorians to have a working smoke alarm. The ‘Change your clock, change your smoke alarm battery’ campaign, marks the end of daylight saving on Sunday 6 April with an important reminder to Australians to ensure the best possible chance of surviving household fires.

“While Australian homeowners are becoming more aware of the dangers of house fires, the Duracell research indicates they are still putting themselves at risk by not following important fire safety recommendations," Rob Purcell, MFB Assistant Chief Fire Officer said.

"When it comes to protecting yourself and your family against the dangers of house fires, a working smoke alarm and a rehearsed home escape plan are easy tasks to ensure everyone in the family knows what to do should a fire occur in the home.”

Australia’s fire and emergency services recommend using long-lasting 9-volt alkaline batteries, testing the smoke alarm once a month and changing the batteries each year to ensure year-round protection.

The 2014 Duracell Fire Safety Survey* of Australian parents with children aged 17 years or younger living at home also revealed:

  • Australian parents rank a house fire among one of their greatest fears. Almost half of Australian parents (47 per cent) consider a house fire more scary than poisonous snakes (18 per cent) and spiders (11 per cent), aggressive dogs (8 per cent) and sharks (7 per cent).  
  • In households that are reliant on a single smoke alarm, only 3 per cent are testing it monthly. 
  • Less than four per cent of Australian parents have developed a home escape plan and practiced it in accordance with fire and emergency services recommendations. In most family households, the only plan is to ‘get out as quick as possible’ (72 per cent).
  • The most common locations for smoke alarms are the hallway (89 per cent), the living room (37 per cent) and the kitchen (37 per cent). Only around one in five (21 per cent) have a smoke alarm in the bedroom.
  • As many as 77 per cent of parents admit facing difficulties in checking and maintaining their smoke alarms.
  • Australian families are more likely to service their car (88 per cent) than check their smoke alarm (70 per cent).
  • The majority of parents (90 per cent) have not discussed and agreed who is going to be responsible for checking the smoke alarm.

MFB and CFA recommend households:

  • Monthly: test smoke alarms by pressing the test button with a broom handle
  • Annually: gently dust around the outside cover of your smoke alarm
  • Annually: replace your 9-volt battery at the end of daylight saving
  • Every 10 years: replace your smoke alarms

* Research was conducted nationally by Galaxy Research, on behalf of Duracell, in January, 2014. A total of 1,264 parents comprising fathers and mothers with children aged 17 years or younger were surveyed.

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The Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council (AFAC) recommends monthly testing of smoke alarms to ensure they are working correctly.

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Only working Smoke Alarms save lives.

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