MONTREAL - A simple nine volt alkaline battery costs a buck or two, but once properly connected to a smoke detector carries a value far more than money can buy.

The batteries, invented in 1956, coupled with the shrill shrieking smoke detectors, which came into homes in 1969, are almost all that's needed to save lives from fast-spreading blazes. 

And with the beginning of Daylight Savings Time this weekend, authorities are urging Montrealers to have their fire detection set-ups carefully installed, and that means popping some new batteries in and keeping them in.

Saving one's life apparently has not been sufficient incentive for many Montrealers who either do not have alarms or disconnect the battery, perhaps after burning food.

The City of Montreal can now fine residents $250 for not having one properly installed, while many other municipalities also have similar possible punishments.

Last year Montreal firefighters dealt with 1,500 fires, which killed 16 people. Of those fires, four of five were in homes that did not have a working smoke detector.

Fire department brass say that in spite of the obvious benefits of having a properly-working smoke detector, almost a one third of us don't actually bother spending the six dollars and two minutes required to buy and install the precious devices.

"We're working on that 30 percent and after every fire in the neighbourhood, we go around to remind people to check if they have smoke detectors," said Claude Trudel of Montreal's Executive Committee.

One CMHC study suggested that tenants are less likely to have their smoke detectors plugged in and in a city where about two of three are tenants, that makes Montreal particularly vulnerable, as homes without the alarms are 10 times likelier to report fires.