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Fire prevention month: smoke alarms and escape plan

October 2011 -- According to the National Fire Protection Association, October is fire prevention month. Specifically Oct. 9-15 was Fire Prevention Week, depicting this year's campaign "Protect Your Family from Fire!"

The focus is to get families involved in fire safety through familiarity and inspection of smoke alarms as well as home fire escape planning.

According to NFPA, one home structure fire was reported every 87 seconds in 2009. In addition on average, seven people died in home fires every day, with adults 65 and over facing the highest risk of fire death.

Roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths were due to homes without smoke alarms or those with faulty smoke alarms because of dead batteries.

In conjunction, approximately three-quarters of Americans have a fire escape plan, however only less than half actually practice the route.

According to a NFPA survey, one-third of American families estimate they have six minutes before a fire in their home becomes life-threatening, when actually the amount of time could be even less. And only 8% stated they would actually get out of the house once the smoke alarm went off.

It is important for families to practice fire prevention techniques in their homes as this year's theme emphasizes. For smoke alarms it is important to be aware of their location, make sure the batteries are operable and the sounds of the smoke alarms are working.

Also it is important to create a fire escape plan if one isn't developed and make sure to practice the plan at least twice a year. When developing or reviewing your plan, make sure the exits to get out are clear of toys, furniture or clutter and ensure all family members are aware of a designated safe place to meet outside once a fire occurs.

There are other house hold methods to assist with prevention of severe fire mishaps such as installing home fire sprinklers, buying fire extinguishers, paying attention while you are cooking, cigarette smoking outside the residence and lighting and placing candles away from fire absorbent materials.

Fire Prevention Week was established to recognize the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres of land. The fire began on Oct 8 of that year but didn't end until the next day. The real cause of the fire is still uncertain.

During the same exact date as the Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire occurred in Northeast Wisconsin that resulted in 16 towns being burned, 1,152 deaths and scorched 1.2 million acres of land. The fire was from a blaze that began when several railroad workers clearing land for tracks unintentionally started a brush fire that couldn't be controlled.