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Keep Your Family Safe From Fire

A home fire can quickly become a devastating tragedy. Last week's deadly fire in New York City is a heart-wrenching reminder of how important it is to have an escape plan.

The death toll climbed to 10 over the weekend when a ninth child perished.

President of the Home Safety Council Meri-K Appy offered some important tips about how to develop a fire escape plan for the entire family. She told The Saturday Early Show co-anchor Tracy Smith that a plan and a working smoke detector are the most important weapons you have against a fire.

About 90 percent of fire fatalities are from home fires and 70 percent of deaths are in homes with no working alarms.

Smoke alarms:

  • The Home Safety Council recommends installing smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement.
  • Make sure there is an alarm near every sleeping area.
  • Test your smoke alarms at least once a month.
  • Install fresh batteries at least once a year.
  • Smoke alarms should be replaced at least once every 10 years.
  • Use interconnected smoke alarms, which are tied in together so that if one alarm operates, they all signal together, giving you more time to escape a fire.
  • Be prepared for a family member to wake children for fire drills and in a real emergency.

    Fire escape planning:

  • Sketch out a floor plan of your home, including all rooms, windows, interior and exterior doors, stairways, fire escapes and smoke alarms. Make sure that every family member is familiar with the layout.
  • Select two escape routes from each room and mark them clearly on the plan.
  • Make sure windows and doorways open easily and that stair and doorways are never blocked.
  • Find two ways out of every room like the door and a window. You might need an escape ladder to get out of upstairs bedroom windows.
  • Have a place to meet in front of your home. Use a mobile phone or a neighbor's phone to call 911.
  • Hold family fire drills frequently and at various times until the escape plans become second nature. After the process is mastered, hold a drill when family members are sleeping.

    Fire extinguisher:

  • In many cases, the safest response is to evacuate the home and call the fire department.
  • Children should never be encouraged or taught to fight a home fire.
  • Adults should be trained before using a fire extinguisher. Your local fire department can help you find training.

    Home fire sprinklers:

  • Home fire sprinklers can contain and even extinguish a fire faster than most fire departments can arrive.
  • Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate spraying water directly on the fire. Ninety percent of fires are contained by just one sprinkler.
  • On average, home fire sprinkler systems add 1 percent to 1.5 percent of the total building cost in new construction.
  • Sprinklers use only a fraction of the water used by fire department hoses.