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Have a plan ready for escaping a fire at home

Do you or your family know what to do when smoke alarms start to screech and fire threatens in the home?

The window of opportunity to react is brief and the danger real, state fire officials say.

“We have as little as two or three minutes to escape the house from the time the smoke alarm sounds,” said Orlene Hawks, director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which includes Bureau of Fire Services.

With that in mind, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed October as Fire Prevention Month with a National Fire Protection Association theme this year of, “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.”

Recent statistics on fire fatalities in Michigan a majority of fire deaths happen overnight, specifically with fires starting in the living room or bedroom.

Michiganders also should check smoke alarms for elderly family members, identify any fire hazards in their home and help correct them.

Other tips for making the home more fire-safe:

— Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and inside every sleeping area.

— Check the alarm by pushing the test button every month.

— Never smoke in bed; keep lighters and cigarettes away from children.

— Never leave cooking unattended.

— Keep the stove and burners clean and free of grease while you cook to avoid the potential for a small kitchen fire that can get out of hand quickly.

— Never leave candles unattended; place them in sturdy holders on uncluttered surfaces, keeping them at least a foot away from anything that can burn, including curtains, bedding, furniture, and carpeting.

— Have fireplaces, chimneys, wood stoves, and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional — and cleaned if necessary.

— Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.

— Use caution when using space heaters; never leave them unattended, keep them at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, and place them on a hard-nonflammable surface, like a ceramic tile floor.

— Replace frayed extension cords; do not overload extension cords.

— Never overload electrical outlets; plug only one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time.

— Major appliances should not be plugged in using extension cords and plug strips. Plug appliances directly into the wall receptacle. Same goes with space heaters.

— Keep clothes and other items three feet away from gas water heaters.

— Clean the dryer lint screen after each load — lint is extremely flammable.

— Have fire extinguishers in the home and know how to use them.

— Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are not blocked by clutter.

— Sleep with the bedroom door closed to limit fire spread. Closing the door before dozing can save lives by reducing toxic smoke levels and slowing down the spread of fire and smoke into sleeping areas.

— Make sure to close the bedroom door if escaping a fire by going out a window. This slows down the spread of fire and smoke.

MI Prevention — a statewide fire safety campaign through the state fire marshal, the Bureau of Fire Services and Michigan’s fire safety organizations — is working to reduce the number of fire deaths, injuries and property loss in Michigan. In the past eight months, MI Prevention has installed 21,384 smoke alarms and 6,455 carbon monoxide detectors in homes free of charge and is educating consumers on safety practices. Consumers can find more resources and safety information at the MI Prevention website, www.michigan.gov/miprevention.

For more information about preventing fires and staying safe, go to the NFPA’s official Fire Prevention Week website at www.firepreventionweek.org.

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