Saturday, November 2, 2013

Daylight Savings Time: a History Lesson

by Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor

While living in Paris, France as an American delegate, the great Benjamin Franklin fell on ailments that kept him home. He took to staying up well past midnight playing chess. After one particularly late night, Ben was awakened by a loud noise in his room. Much to his surprise, when he woke, his room was filled with light. 

Thinking it was a new type of oil lamp he had reviewed earlier in the evening, it soon dawned on him that it was the sun. Known for being frugal, Ben decided that Parisians were wasting excessive energy—back then it was candle light, in the form of tallow and wax—and that something needed to be done about people living the majority of their days by artificial light. In a letter to the French paper Journal de Pairs, he suggested that the city:

  • Tax window shutters
  • Ration candles
  • Stop coaches from passing in the street
  • Ring church bells in order to wake everyone up at sunrise 

And thus, the idea of Daylight Savings Time was born! (Technically, it is Daylight Saving Time, without the s, but that just doesn’t roll of the tongue as nicely, does it?) 

Now, thankfully, we just turn our clocks back or forward.  

Daylight Savings Time is actually a federal law. Signed by Lyndon B. Johnson, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was made law in order to establish a “uniform time within the standard time zones” in the United Sates. However, each state was allowed to opt out by a vote. Currently, only Arizona and Hawaii have no Daylight Savings Time.

On November 3, Daylight Savings Time ends. At 2 a.m., our clocks set back one hour. So at 2 a.m., turn your clock back to 1 a.m. Or typically for us non-night owls, simply turn your clocks back one hour right before you go to bed. 

Will you fall back in bed to enjoy an extra hour of sleep or will you spring forward and accomplish one of those “I’ll do it tomorrow” tasks you put off yesterday.
Do not let your smoke alarm fail. Check your batteries! 
Traditionally, Daylight Savings Time is when our local fire departments encourage us to check our smoke alarms. Though this is probably a testament to how well, or not well, I cook that I know exactly how annoying that piercing re-re-re alarm is. However tempting it may be, do not disconnect or remove the batteries from your smoke alarm. 38% of deaths in home fires are due to smoke alarm failure. The main reason why smoke alarms fail? Dead, missing or disconnected batteries. Testing your smoke alarm takes only minutes and might just save you and your family’s life. 

What to do with the extra 55 minutes? Check your carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher! In homes with natural gas appliances, wood-burning fireplaces or space heaters, you are at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Because carbon monoxide is odorless, it is extremely difficult to tell when levels have become dangerous. Carbon monoxide detectors work much like smoke alarms, by sending out a loud piercing alarm when CO levels reach an unsafe level. 

I always heard Daylight Savings Time started to give farmers more working daylight hours. Who knew it was all about saving energy? 

Do you think you know it all? Take The American Red Cross fire safety quiz, a gateway to learn more about fire safety. 

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