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Changes clocks, change smoke alarm batteries Nov. 1

ST. PAUL -- Last year, residential fires claimed 38 lives in Minnesota; 75 percent of the deaths occurred in homes without working smoke alarms. State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl thinks these facts alone should be enough to convince people to install and maintain smoke alarms.

"Those 38 victims died without time to escape," Rosendahl says. "An inexpensive alarm and a set of fresh batteries could have saved their lives."

About 96 percent of American homes have smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association. A third of the alarms, however, contain dead batteries or no batteries at all. Some batteries simply wear out and are not replaced; others are "borrowed" for use in another device -- a habit that Rosendahl says puts families, especially the young and the disabled, in danger.

Rosendahl suggests Minnesotans change the batteries in their smoke alarms when they turn clocks back one hour on Nov. 1. In many cities, people who need help installing or maintaining alarms can call the fire department for assistance, he said.

"Statistically, working smoke alarms double your chances of surviving a home fire. Changing the batteries takes about one minute, so that's a huge return on a small investment," Rosendahl says.