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Forty percent of people believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire. The mistaken impression will prove fatal for some and disastrous for many more.

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Some findings from an American Red Cross survey:

• More than three-fourths (80%) of people surveyed believe everyone in their household knows what to do when a smoke alarm goes off. But less than half have a home fire escape plan in place. And only half of the families that do have a plan have actually practiced it.

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• Even though many admit to actions that could contribute to a home fire, only one of four (27%) people think that they are likely to experience a home fire in their lifetime.

• About 40% of people have forgotten to turn off a stove or oven, even though cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries.

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• More than a third (34%) of people have used a stove, kerosene lantern or space heater to warm their home. The fact is that heating equipment is involved in one of every five home fire deaths.

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Startling fact: If you do have a home fire, you are more likely to die than you were in 1980, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

NFPA has designated “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” as the theme for Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12. This year’s campaign recognizes the everyday people who motivate their households to develop and practice a home fire escape plan.

“This year’s campaign works to celebrate people of all ages who learn about home fire escape planning and practice, bring that information home, and spur their families to action,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “From young students who learn about the campaign at school to parents who attend a community event like a fire station open house -- all of them truly are heroes because they’re taking steps to make their households much, much safer from fire.”

“Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” also focuses on what a home escape plan entails and the value of practicing it. These messages are more important than ever, particularly because today’s homes burn faster than ever. Carli notes that synthetic fibers used in modern home furnishings, along with the fact that newer homes tend to be built with more open spaces and unprotected lightweight construction, are contributing factors to the increased burn rate.

“People tend to underestimate their risk to fire, particularly at home. That over-confidence lends itself to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice,” Carli said. “But in a fire situation, we’ve seen time and again that advance planning can make a potentially life-saving difference.”

A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) that’s a safe distance from the home. Home escape plans should be practiced twice a year by all members of the household.

In South Carolina through Oct. 1, 46 people have died in fires, according to the S.C. Fire Marshal’s Office. Eight-eight percent of the deaths occurred in fires at homes. The toll attests to the fact that fires – fatal fires – do happen.

Don’t be a victim. Follow NFPA’s advice and have an escape plan – and practice it.

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