‘Springing’ forward

Published 5:53 pm Thursday, March 9, 2017

By Melanie Ruberti


LaGrange – Be ready to gain an extra hour of sunlight – and lose an extra 60 minutes of sleep.

Daylight Saving Time is this weekend, meaning folks need to turn their clocks ahead one hour before they go to bed Saturday night.

But the time change is not the only thing people should prepare for this weekend.

“… This is a good time to take steps to make sure families are prepared for emergencies,” said Connie Hensler, executive director of the American Red Cross of Central Midwest Georgia. “… We are reminding everyone to test the batteries in their smoke alarms as they turn their clocks ahead.

“If someone does not have smoke alarms, they should install them,” Hensler continued. “Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. It’s also very important to have an escape plan and to practice that plan. Make sure every family member knows how to get out of the house in less than two minutes.”

House fires are a bigger threat in the United States than floods or tornadoes, Hensler said.

“Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out,” she explained. “Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Alarms should be tested once a month and batteries changed at least once a year.”

A fire escape plan you routinely practice with your family may also mean the difference between life and death.

“The plan should include at least two ways to get out of every room,” Hensler explained. “Families should select a meeting spot a safe distance away from the home where they can meet after the fire. Practice the plan to include timing family members and make sure everyone gets out in under two minutes.”

Most parents believe their children would know what to do or how to escape a burning home with little help, according to a recent American Red Cross survey.

But in that same survey, only 50 percent of those parents said they talked to their families about fire safety and only 10 percent practiced fire drills in their home.

Hensler suggested parents help children familiarize themselves with the sound of a smoke alarm and teach them what to do when they hear it.

While spring showers bring May flowers, the change in the weather may also bring natural disasters like floods, severe storms and tornadoes.

The Daylight Saving weekend is also a good time to make or restock disaster preparedness kits. The three most important steps are: get a kit, make a plan and stay informed, Hensler stated.

“Keep disaster supplies in an easy to carry bag or container to use at home or to take with you in case you have to evacuate,” she said. “… Have all household members plan what steps they would take if an emergency occurs. Plan what to do in case you are separated, and choose two places to meet – one right outside your house … and another outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home or you are asked to evacuate.”

Staying informed about potentially dangerous situations means paying attention to local media outlets and law enforcement agencies.

But people should also know about any “risks” they may face where they work, live or play, said Hensler. This means learning if your home or office is in an area that floods quickly and more.

People should also decide how they want to be notified of any impending weather situations such as having an alert on your phone, receiving a text or having a weather radio.

“Statistics show the better prepared someone is before a disaster happens, the better they are able to cope (with disaster) when it does,” Hensler said. “… Preparing in advance by having necessary supplies on hand, having a plan that all family members are aware of and practicing it can make a big difference in a family’s ability to recover.”

For a complete list of what to include in your disaster preparedness kit, visit www.redcross.org.

The ARC also has its own ‘Red Cross Emergency’ app for phones. The app will alert folks and send information for 14 different emergencies and natural disasters. People can customize it within their own zip code – and those of loved ones who may live in other states.

The app is free and can be found in app stores or at www.redcross.org/apps.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.