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Echo Press Editorial: Do you have $7 and a couple minutes?

Does your smoke detector work?

Not sure? Don’t care? Don’t have the time to check?

Make it a priority today. The stakes are too high not to: According to the state fire marshal division’s 2012 statistics:

• One fire was reported every 32 minutes.

• Fifty people died in fires.

• Dollar-loss to fires averaged $556 per minute.

People die every year in Minnesota homes where smoke alarms are absent or not properly working, and those deaths are preventable, notes State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl.

Smoke alarms need to be checked often and batteries changed at least once a year. Alarms should be replaced after 10 years.

The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when most people are sleeping. Last year in Minnesota, only three fire deaths took place in homes where smoke alarms were known to be present and working.

“These devices save lives every day, and ignoring them can be a fatal mistake,” Rosendahl said.

Rosendahl said the most common reason alarms don’t work is dead or missing batteries. Some people even remove them for other uses or to eliminate nuisance alarms.

“They’re gambling with their lives,” Rosendahl said. “When fire strikes, working alarms and a good escape plan become life-or-death issues.”

In addition to changing alarm batteries, Rosendahl recommends the following: • Dust or vacuum smoke and CO alarms when you change batteries.

• Test alarms once a month using the test button.

• Replace the entire alarm if it’s more than 10 years old.

• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, and place them inside and outside of sleeping areas.

• Interconnect alarms in your home so that when one sounds, they all sound.

• Make sure everyone in your home knows how to respond when alarms sound.

• Prepare and practice an escape plan to get everyone out of your home safely.

The importance of having smoke detectors that work should have set off clanging alarms in Alexandria last month when a kitchen fire caused a close call at the Oak Knoll Apartments. The fire happened in the early morning hours when a pan that contained grease was left on a stove. The occupants escaped but the fire caused about $15,000 in damage. A smoke detector was in the unit but had been deactivated, according to local fire officials.

A pack of two 9-volt batteries costs about $7. It takes only a couple of minutes to open the package and put one in. That’s a very low investment of time and money for something that could save the lives of your family. Do it today.