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by Abigail Van Buren

Planned Escape Route Ensures Family Safety in Case of Fire

DEAR ABBY: Can you imagine waking to the sound of your smoke alarm in the middle of the night? Would you know what to do? Half of all home fires occur between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. -- when most people are sound asleep.

This year the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the official sponsor of Fire Protection Week for more than 80 years, has teamed with Pella Windows and Doors and the Home Safety Council to promote fire safety education and preparedness during Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 5-11, 2003. Our theme: "When Fire Strikes, GET out! STAY out!" Our campaign drives home the message that when the smoke alarm goes off, you should leave right away using one of your two preplanned escape routes -- AND NOT GO BACK INSIDE FOR ANY REASON.

Abby, please let parents know that as part of their escape plan, they must make sure that smoke alarms wake everyone in the home, especially children. If family members do not wake to the sound of the alarm, consider installing interconnected smoke alarms in all the bedrooms. When one alarm sounds, they all sound. Or assign an adult to take the sound sleepers and assist them in escaping.

Thank you for sharing this important information with your readers. -- JAMES M. SHANNON, PRESIDENT, NFPA

DEAR READERS: Since this is Fire Prevention Week, I can think of no better time for all of us to ensure that there are working batteries in our smoke alarms. If you haven't already done so, now is also the time to craft a fire escape plan so that if your fire alarm does sound, you and your loved ones will all get out without being injured. Plan not one, but two avenues of escape in case one is blocked. Also, an escape plan is no good unless everyone is familiar with it -- so practice, practice, practice.