DEAR ABBY: Smoke alarms are one of the greatest fire safety success stories of our time. Since they were introduced in 1975, home fire deaths have been cut in half, even as the nation's population has increased by half. But far too many people let the batteries in their smoke alarms wear out, or even remove them to avoid occasional nuisance alarms. And too many people -- and their families -- pay for their neglect or poor judgment with their lives.
About 2,500 people a year die in structural -- mostly residential -- fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 60 percent of them -- over 1,500 people -- are dying in homes that had either no smoke alarms or no working ones. That's more than three people a day.
This fall marks the 27th consecutive year the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) will partner with Energizer, the manufacturer of batteries, flashlights and lanterns, in the Change Your Clock Change Your Battery program. Together, we're asking people to test their existing batteries or install fresh ones in their smoke alarms in conjunction with the end of daylight saving time on Sunday, Nov. 2. It takes only a few minutes. This will not only give families critical early warning time to escape a fire, but also helps to protect our firefighters by reducing the likelihood they'll have to enter a burning home to rescue someone still inside.
Your daily column helps people improve their lives. Please help me save lives by printing my letter. Thank you, Abby. -- FIRE CHIEF G. KEITH BRYANT, IAFC PRESIDENT
DEAR CHIEF BRYANT: You're welcome. It's tragic to read and hear about families who have died because of something that could have been so easily prevented.
Readers, I'm giving you notice. Friday is Halloween, and Saturday night at bedtime is when you'll be turning your clocks back to standard time. Please remember to add smoke detector batteries to your shopping list this week. That way, they'll be at hand when we check our smoke alarms to ensure they are working properly.
No procrastinating! Home fires happen more frequently during the cold winter months, so protecting yourselves and your families at this time of year is particularly important.
DEAR ABBY: I have a T-shirt I bought when I was younger and wilder. It has a filthy message on it, so I can't donate it to charity, and I'm even embarrassed to throw it out. I'd hate to, because I have worn it only once. It seems wasteful to throw out something in such good shape.
What should I do? -- MORE MATURE NOW
DEAR MORE MATURE: People who wear T-shirts with filthy slogans send a message that they either agree with what it says or think it's funny. Because the shirt no longer "speaks" for you, wear it when you're alone in your house, or admit you made a mistake in buying it and turn it into a dust rag.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.