HARRISBURG – Pennsylvanians are reminded to replace the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when they turn their clocks back by one hour on Sunday, State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann said.

"Every firefighter is heartbroken when people are hurt or killed in a building that has alarms or detectors that are not in working order," said Mann. "They're not expensive and they save lives. Make it a habit to change batteries when you change your clocks."

Worn or missing batteries are the most common reason why smoke alarms fail to work. Changing alarm batteries at least once a year is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent tragic deaths and injuries. Working smoke alarms significantly reduce the risk of dying in a home fire.

"Most home-fire fatalities occur overnight, when people are sleeping," said Mann. "Just a few extra seconds of warning can make the difference between getting out safely and being overcome by smoke."

Carbon monoxide is created when combustible materials burn incompletely. Often called "the silent killer," it is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can kill before victims are even aware they have been exposed. Sources include wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, gas-fired appliances, grills, and motor vehicles. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for the flu and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, disorientation and fatigue.

Whether battery-powered or hard-wired, alarms and detectors should be replaced every 8-10 years to ensure reliability. It is helpful to write the date of purchase inside the unit before installing.

Residents are encouraged to check alarm batteries again during the spring time change on March 13, 2011.

In addition to regularly testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors by pushing the test button, residents should plan two escape routes from each room of their home and routinely practice those routes with all members of the household. Also, consider creating a fire safety kit that includes working flashlights and fresh batteries.