Spring forward, fall back. It's that time of year again, when appointments are missed and engagements delayed as people scramble to figure out what time it is.

It's the beauty of daylight savings time. And by the time you wake up Sunday morning, all your time pieces should have been moved forward one hour. While cellphones, computers and most television sets will take care of themselves, it is once again time for the semiannual struggle to adjust all the coffeepots, alarm clocks, ovens, watches and the digital displays on your car's dashboard. Good luck with all of that!

As it is human nature to follow the rhythm of the sun, it also will mean most of us simply will get one less hour of sleep this weekend. The Family Sleep Institute suggests it will be easier for families with young children not to worry about gradually adjusting to anything. Instead, ensure the sleeping areas are extremely dark, use white noise to block outside commotion, and put the youngsters to bed one hour early Saturday night.

Got all that? Good, because there is one other extremely important task you need to take care of this weekend. For years, public safety officials have preached the practical coupling of daylight savings with putting fresh batteries in smoke detectors.

In a press release, Kansas Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen urged all Kansans to remember that Sunday is the day to "Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries."

"Your risk of dying in a fire is greatly reduced when your home is equipped with working smoke alarms," Jorgensen said. "Having smoke detectors with dead batteries is no different than having no smoke detectors at all. When you change the time on your clocks, take the time to protect your family by changing the batteries on your smoke detectors and testing them to make sure they are in proper working order."

During the past five years in Kansas, 166 people have died in structure fires. The majority of the fatalities -- 104 -- occurred in homes with operable smoke alarms, which indicates those fires were so fierce no amount of warning likely would have helped. Of the remaining 62 deaths, 52 took place in homes with no smoke alarms and 10 had non-working alarms. Common sense would suggest at least a portion of those fatalities could have been avoided by having a working smoke alarm.

The Fire Marshal Office suggest following these safety tips:

* Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home, including in the basement.

* Have a family escape plan. Plan and practice two escape routes out of every room in your house. Designate an outside meeting place.

* In case of fire, call 9-1-1 once you are safely outside your home.

* Once outside, stay outside and don't return for anything -- not even a pet.

We encourage everybody to enjoy their weekend, and take the time Saturday to prepare for the time change. If you don't, at least you shouldn't be surprised by whatever you miss on Sunday.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net