Today's homes burn faster than ever. In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one or two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds.
This year's theme for Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7-13) is "Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere."
Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of Oct. 9, in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began Oct. 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage.
This fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land over three days.
While numbers show progress in teaching people how to prevent fires, there is still more to do in educating the public about how to protect themselves in the event of one - especially given the increased speed at which today's home fires spread and grow.
To help keep your family safe at home, make sure you have working smoke alarms. Change the batteries once or twice year and change out the smoke alarms if they are 10 years old.
Have an escape plan and make sure everyone knows where to meet in case of fire.
Since people feel safest in their homes, it is also the place where people are at greatest risk for fire.
So, remember to "Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere."
Look for places fire could start. Take a good look around your home. Identify potential fire hazards and take care of them.
Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm. You might have only minutes to escape. Go to your outside meeting place, which should be a safe distance from the home and where everyone should know where to meet.
Learn two ways out of every room. Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are free of clutter.
Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue.