Next week is Fire Prevention Week, and the latest statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show the home fire death rate is higher today than in 1980.

Modern synthetic furnishings make homes burn faster and the fires produce deadly smoke and gases within moments. You have as little as two or three minutes to escape a burning home.

These concerns have prompted the association to create its "Look, Listen, Learn" campaign to help people take precautions against house fires. Public education specialist Lisa Braxton said people need to be aware because a fire can start anywhere.

"We want people to look for places that a fire can start, to listen for the sound of the smoke alarm and to learn two ways out of every room. If people keep these actions in mind, they can reduce their chances of having a fire or not have a fire at all," Braxton said.

First, people should look around their home for fire hazards, said Braxton. Make sure anything can burn is not near the stove. Also, check electrical outlets are not frayed and there is no furniture on top of them.

For people who like to use candles, Braxton suggested using battery-operated candles instead. They look and smell like real candles but they are not a hazard.

But the most important precaution you can take is checking to make sure your home's smoke alarms are in proper working order. Braxton said smoke alarms are your first line of defense. They should be in every sleeping room, outside of every sleeping room area and on every floor, including the basement.

Braxton warned that a cooking fire is the most common house fire. Sometimes, people fall asleep while they're cooking. They can get distracted and leave the room. They may even wear loose clothing that can catch on fire.

Smoking is another common cause of house fires. People don't dispose of tobacco products properly, Braxton said.. You should not smoke in bed or smoke if you're sleepy and use a deep, sturdy ashtray.

A smart thing to do, Braxton said, is to create a home fire escape plan. Make a map of each level of your home, including all the windows and doors. Practice the escape plan night and day. Get the whole family involved. Once you do you test, Braxton said to make sure you have chosen your safe meeting place outdoors. It could be a tree or a lamppost outside your home. Each family member should know the safe place and meet there once they've escaped safely.

Last, but not least, have a cellphone with you to call 9-1-1 from outside.

More information about Fire Prevention Week is at firepreventionweek.org.

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