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Fire

It takes a lot of little steps to prevent fires; here's a refresher on some of those little things:

Install and maintain smoke detectors

Smoke detectors' warnings should give you time to escape a fire. You need at least one on each level of your home and one outside each sleeping area; make sure you follow manufacturers' recommendations when you install.

Test them regularly -- once a week is ideal. Replace batteries twice a year -- it's convenient to do it when you're changing the clocks before and after daylight saving time -- or whenever the detector chirps to warn you the battery's dying.

Practice and plan escape routes

Sometimes you may only have seconds or minutes to escape a fire; knowing the best escape routes in advance saves precious time. With your family, plan two ways out of every room, and choose a meeting place outside. Make sure everyone understands that once you're out, you stay out! Especially if you have kids, practice the escape plan at least twice a year.

Space heaters really do need space

If you use portable space heaters, make sure they're at least three feet from anything flammable, including paper, curtains, furniture, clothing, or bedding. Keep your kids and your pets well away from them. Don't leave heaters unattended, and never leave them on overnight or when you leave the house.

Kitchen safety

Cooking areas need to be free of combustibles. Never leave a cooking stove unattended, and make sure pot handles are always turned to the center of the stove so they can't be accidentally knocked over.

To control a grease fire, the first thing you should do is carefully slide a lid over the pan to smother the flames, and then turn off the burner.

Candle handling

Candles are lovely decorations, but increasingly they're also the cause of fires. No matter how tiny the candle, it's still an open flame and can ignite any flammable item that comes into contact with it. Keep papers, curtains, drapes, and other combustibles well away, and make sure the candle's stand is tip-proof.

Never leave a lit candle unattended -- extinguish it when you leave the room. This is especially important if you have children or pets in the house! And, of course, don't leave candles burning overnight, either.

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