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Fire safety for your home

Now is the time to take steps to improve your safety using some tips from the National Fire Protection Association. Some of these seem like common sense, but sometimes we all get a little oblivious to what could happen.

Stay in the kitchen if you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you're simmering, baking, roasting or boiling, don't leave the house, and check the kitchen regularly.

Keep things that can catch fire away from the stovetop, and have a lid handy to smother small grease fires. If a fire starts in the oven or microwave, turn it off and keep the door closed.

Smoke alarms:
Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, as well as outside the sleeping area, and on every level of the home. Interconnected smoke alarms - if one sounds, they all sound - are preferable. Test smoke alarms monthly; replace after 10 years. Install carbon monoxide alarms in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the house. Keeping a fire extinguisher on hand can save lives and property, but the No. 1 priority is to get out safely.

If you are a smoker:
Go outside. Never smoke in bed. Keep smoking materials out of the reach of children and use a deep, sturdy ashtray away from anything that can burn. Make sure you put out a cigarette, and even then, don't discard it in vegetation that could ignite easily.

Extinguish candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Keep them at least a foot from anything that can burn. Never leave children alone with a burning candle; keep matches and lighters out of their reach. Use candleholders that won't tip easily, and put them on a clean, uncluttered surface. Don't light a candle if oxygen is in use anywhere in the home. Also, always use battery-powered lighting during a power outage - not candles - for safety.

Furnace/heat source:
Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from your furnace or any other heating unit. Maintain a three-foot kid-free zone around open fires and space heaters, and never use your oven to heat your home. Turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed. Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected and cleaned yearly. Use a sturdy screen to stop fireplace embers from flying into the room. Let ashes cool before putting them into a metal container a safe distance from your home.

Home escape plan:
Make a home escape plan and practice it; know at least two ways out of every room and specify an outside meeting place. If you have a fire, leave immediately, closing doors behind you to contain it. If the smoke alarm sounds, get out; don't go back inside for people or pets. If you must escape through smoke, keep low - under the smoke. If you try to fight a small fire, make sure others leave and that you have a clear exit. Call 911 AFTER you leave.