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Make Fire Safety a Priority

Put fire safety first on your home repair list.

Although Fire Safety Week is in early October, every week should be a fire safety week for families, especially those families with very young children.

The Home Safety Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of home injuries, commissioned a study showing that Americans are not fully prepared for home fires. Even though a recent study revealed that 97 percent of households have installed smoke alarms, only 20 percent test their alarms regularly.

More than half of American families (64 percent) polled have never planned or practiced a fire escape plan.

The Council offers these tips to protect your family against a real-life hazard.

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Make sure there is an alarm in or near every sleeping area. The Council recommends installing smoke alarms inside all bedrooms.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month by pushing the "test" button on the face of the alarm cover.
  • Test your smoke alarms when you return from an extended trip the battery power may have died during your absence.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms once a year.
  • Don't disable smoke alarms, even temporarily you may forget to replace the battery.
  • Smoke alarms don't last forever. Replace your alarms once every 10 years.
  • Make an escape plan with everyone in your household. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes.
  • Everyone must understand the escape plan. Check to make sure escape routes are clear and that doors and windows can be opened easily.
  • Correct obstacles to ensure a safe and quick escape. Some locks may not work properly and upstairs sleeping areas may require fire-escape ladders.
  • Choose an outside meeting place a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they have escaped.
  • Go outside to see if your street number is clearly visible from the road.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to call 911. Teach children that if fire breaks out, get out first and then call for help.
  • Help children, older adults and those with special needs in the drill and in the event of a real emergency.
  • If windows or doors have security bars, make sure the bars have quick-release mechanisms inside.
  • Once you're out, stay out. If someone is missing, inform the fire-department dispatcher when you call.

To learn more about fire prevention and other home injuries, take the Home Safety Council's quiz at www.homesafetycouncil.org.

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