DEAR ABBY: I have a quick pop quiz for you and your readers: You are at greater risk from fire in:
(a) a high-rise hotel.
(b) a single-family house.
(c) an elementary school.
If you answered hotel or school, you are not only incorrect, but by not recognizing the potential for fire, you may also be dangerously ill-prepared to deal with a home fire if it strikes.
Although news coverage of high-rise and other public occupancy fires tends to be more widespread, the fact is eight out of 10 fire deaths occur in the home. Although the number of fire fatalities has dropped significantly over the past decade, the percentage of fires that occur in the home has remained steady.
Fire can happen to anyone. But no one has to be a victim. This week is Fire Prevention Week. As its official sponsor for 80 years, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is urging Dear Abby readers to log onto www.firepreventionweek.org to download free fire safety information and a home escape worksheet. Your local fire department is working with NFPA as part of the "Team Up for Fire Safety" educational campaign. They need you on their team. Please download the free information now. It could save your life. -- JAMES M. SHANNON, CEO, NFPA
DEAR JAMES AND DEAR READERS: I'm sure I speak for everyone in voicing gratitude for your timely and important letter.
We all need to be aware of three simple steps that can be taken right now to make our homes safer from fire. Every household MUST have working smoke alarms on each level, and they should be tested once a month to assure that they're working properly. Smoke alarms provide an early warning, giving families time to escape.
To make that escape as quick and safe as possible, it is vital that a plan be made in advance -- with two possible exits out of every room. It is essential to PRACTICE a home fire drill regularly so each family member is familiar with it. It should be practiced in order to identify obstacles or difficulties that could slow your escape.
Finally, remember that the best protection from fire is to prevent it in the first place. Conduct a hunt for home hazards, such as unattended lighted candles, space heaters too close to combustibles and overflowing ashtrays. Correcting such hazards will go a long way in protecting you and your families from fires.