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Daylight savings makes early arrival

“Spring Forward” is now “Winter Advance.”

Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins this weekend, arriving three weeks earlier than normal. The extended daylight hours will continue until Nov. 4.

All Roanoke-Chowan area residents are reminded to set their clocks one hour ahead before going to bed on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the earlier than normal arrival of DST may affect electronic devices. Most of that gadgetry is pre-programmed to automatically adjust their clocks upon DST’s arrival, traditionally the first Sunday in April.

According to Larry Cooke Jr., owner of the Ahoskie-based Gate811 (a local high speed Internet provider), the early DST change may prove as a minor inconvenience to owners/operators of electronic equipment.

“Your home computers, VCR’s and DVD players, if they are six months old or older, may not automatically move the clocks ahead one hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 11” Cooke said. “That’s really no big deal. All a person has to do is manually adjust the clock. But remember, those devices will automatically advance their clocks ahead one hour when DST was previously scheduled to arrive in April. When that occurs, you’ll have to again manually adjust the clock back one hour, or you’ll be two hours ahead.”

Cooke said it’s more of a complicated issue for companies using a large database.

“Without addressing the situation prior to the earlier than normal arrival of DST, this change could affect database entries,” Cooke noted.

Cooke used computers networked within a financial institution as an example. He said these computers were linked together from different locations, perhaps even in different time zones.

“Let’s say that one computer has been updated to accept the early arrival of DST and another has not,” Cooke explained. “That could affect transactions made between the two units and, as you know, financial transactions, especially from a standpoint of calculating interest, are time sensitive. Because these units are so time-sensitive, it could go as far as to affect the one not updated from even logging on to the network.”

Cooke said there is a big push by the Microsoft Corporation for consumers to install patches that would alleviate any possible problems associated with the early switch to DST. Those patches are available for download from Microsoft’s website.

In an issue related to the arrival of DST, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Jim Long said it was a good practice for citizens to use the time change to put fresh batteries in their smoke alarms.

“Failed smoke alarms were reported in nearly 400 home fires in 2005, which amounted to $4.5 million in losses for those families,” said Commissioner Long who also serves as state fire marshal. “Smoke alarms are designed to notify you of a fire early, so you have time to get out to safety and get help as quickly as possible. The faster the fire department responds, the better chance you have of saving your property. What’s so upsetting about these numbers is that the extent of damage could have been reduced through routine smoke alarm testing and changing the battery regularly.”

Commissioner Long and the Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal encourage North Carolinians to make smoke alarm maintenance a part of their yearly routines. Smoke alarms are the single most important fire protection device homes can have, but nonworking smoke alarms are useless in an emergency situation. Installing smoke alarms — but not properly maintaining them — gives homeowners a false sense of security that could prove deadly.

The early arrival of DST is linked with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This Act changed the start/end dates for DST in the United States. Beginning this year, DST will start on the second Sunday in March and end the first Sunday in November. The Secretary of Energy will report the impact of this change to Congress. Congress retains the right to resume the 2005 DST schedule once the Department of Energy study is complete.

DST is practiced in order to gain an extra hour of daylight during the early evening, resulting in the conservation of energy by substituting natural sunlight for electrical lighting.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Daylight Saving Time first began in 1918 during World War I to allow for more evening light and save fuel for the war effort. Since then, Daylight Saving Time has been used on and off, with different start and end dates.