DEAR ABBY: Please allow me to give your readers some lifesaving advice about fire: Take it seriously. Every year the National Fire Protection Association chooses a special theme for Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 5-11 this year), to focus needed attention on the fire problem. For 1997, it's "Know when to go! React fast to fire." It's the basis for an educational campaign to get people thinking about fire BEFORE it happens.
We selected "Know when to go! React fast to fire" because it's vital that people understand that fire and smoke alarms must be taken seriously, wherever you may be. Please ask your readers to take these simple steps:
-- When in public buildings, such as restaurants, malls, etc., always locate the two exits nearest you. If you see blocked exits, or doors that are chained, report it immediately to someone in charge. (Call the fire department if it isn't promptly corrected.)
-- If you hear a fire alarm, react immediately. Don't wait to see what others do. In most cases, the safest action is to leave the building. Wait until the fire department gives you clearance before you go back inside.
-- When staying in hotels, always familiarize yourself with the escape plan posted on the door of your room. Locate the two exits nearest you and check the doors to make sure they're unlocked.
-- Set a good example for your children. In a calm and positive way, point out exits and talk about the safest response in the event of a fire. Have a home fire-escape plan and practice it twice a year. If the alarm does sound, stay calm -- but leave quickly.
Obviously, there is a great deal more information on fire safety. However, these key points will go a long way toward preventing fire injuries and deaths. Thank you, Abby, for sharing them with your readers. With your help, we're working to reduce the fire loss problem in the United States and all over the world. -- GEORGE D. MILLER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION
DEAR MR. MILLER: I'm pleased to help you publicize a message as important as this one. Too often people underestimate the speed and growth of a fire. They think there's plenty of time to escape, but in a fire, time is the enemy. It's important to plan ahead for an emergency, to know when to go -- and to act immediately. It can make the difference between life and death.