Itís the time of year to be thinking fire prevention, especially in the home. Prevention doesnít require a lot of expensive equipment or training, just a little planning ahead.

Fire Prevention Week is now being observed throughout the nation, and local fire officials will be busy presenting programs at schools and at other meetings as their schedules allow. Preventing fires is a year-round endeavor, but itís especially important at this time of year when the changing of the seasons prompts people to start up heating equipment left dormant since last winter.

In recent years, and in recent weeks, Americans have watched how agencies like the Red Cross respond to disasters of massive scope. But the losses sustained in house fires are no less devastating to the families who experience them, and the same relief team stands ready to respond to those as well. Red Cross responds to a disaster situation somewhere in the U.S. every eight minutes, and 90 percent of the disasters are residential structure fires.

Taking preventative steps right now can go a long way toward avoiding such situations. But even the best planning wonít stop every fire. Minimizing any property loss, and preventing the loss of life, should be the ultimate goals. And one inexpensive and easy step is to install and regularly test smoke detectors. Experts in fire prevention recommend a twice-yearly inspection of those devices and their batteries, and they suggest doing so on the same day that daylight-saving time starts and ends. That happens on the first Sunday in November, put it doesnít hurt to be ahead of that schedule.

Smoke alarms provide occupants of a house the chance to escape, and to summon firefighters, before conditions inside become overwhelming.

Another lifesaving practice is developing an emergency plan that features multiple evacuation routes out of every room in your home. That plan should also include a meeting place outside, so everyone will know if someone remains trapped inside.

The best way to escape a fire is to prevent it from happening. But when one does erupt, preparations could mean the difference in life and death.

Brownwood Bulletin