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Harford County residents should have by now replaced their battery-operated smoke detectors with devices that have sealed-in, long-lasting batteries, in accordance with a state law enacted several years ago.

If you are reading this and haven’t made the change, we urge you to do it without delay.

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The requirement that homeowners install new smoke alarms with sealed-in batteries was put in place for a reason – to save lives.

There has not been a fire-related death in Harford County in more than two years, and we’d like to see that streak continue.

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Of the dozens upon dozens of non-fatal fires The Aegis and www.theaegis.com have reported on over the past several years – the majority of them residential, fire investigators credited working smoke alarms with alerting residents so they could get safely out of the dwelling without serious injury or possible death.

“The battery being sealed takes away the chances of someone borrowing the battery to use somewhere else or taking it out when cooking,” Rich Gardiner, a spokesperson for the Harford Volunteer Fire & EMS Association, explained in discussing why the state law requiring sealed-in batteries was enacted in 2013. “Often times, even with the best of intentions, the battery doesn't get replaced and in some cases what has happened next is tragic.”

Smoke alarms must be replaced when they are 10 years old, which is required by state law, Gardiner said. Residents should look on the bottom of the detector for the date it was manufactured.

“If you can’t find a date, the alarm is most likely older than 10 years and should be replaced,” Gardiner stated.

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He encouraged people who install new devices to record the installation date, writing it on the bottom or side of the detector in permanent market as a notice to future occupants.

Fire safety officials recommend residents install smoke detectors throughout their dwellings, inside and outside bedrooms and on each story, including basements, Gardiner said.

Harford residents can request smoke detectors from their local fire company, which may agree to install them working in partnership with the Red Cross, according to Gardiner.

“It is up to each individual fire department how they want to handle the dissemination if they choose to do so,” he said.

If they can’t get help from a local fire company, people can contact Ron Sollod, chairman of the county’s fire prevention committee, at 12035@jmvfc.org, and he will provide further assistance, according to Gardiner.

“These devices are a bit more expensive than we are used to paying, but the cost savings from not having to purchase batteries over a 10-year period reflects the savings,” he said. “But the real saving is that of a life.”

Can’t argue with that logic.

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