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Don’t be alarmed

Fire — it causes more deaths than any other disaster. It’s also the number one disaster that faces Covington County each year.

This week has been designated as “Fire Prevention Week” and local officials urge residents to safeguard their homes against this deadly disaster.

“Preparedness is your best defense against deadly fires,” said Merrill Davis, executive director of the Covington County Chapter of the American Red Cross. “Many people don’t realize that when the local fire department responds to a home fire, the Red Cross also answers.”

Since July, the local Red Cross chapter has assisted 41 individuals from single-family home fires. In 2008, the chapter assisted 128 individuals.

“And that’s out of the 150 total individuals who were personally affected by a disaster,” Davis said. “Many don’t realize it but four out of five Americans are unaware that home fires are the most common disaster threat, and those numbers prove it.”

Merrill said there are two aspects of being prepared: preventing fires before they start and staying safe during a fire.

“The tips on preventing fires are very simple,” he said. “Never leave candles burning unattended and keep paper, clothing, bedding or anything that might burn at least three feet away from heat sources.

“Most importantly, make sure the stove and other appliances work properly and are turned off after use,” he said. “If you think about it, everything in a home is fuel for a fire. Home fires are almost always preventable.”

To stay safe during a fire, Merrill said one thing is a must.

“Create a home fire escape plan,” he said. “Practice that plan at least twice a year. Install smoke alarms and an escape ladder. Remember to replace those batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year and importantly, purchase and learn how to use a fire extinguisher safely.”

Fire Prevention Week is celebrated Oct. 4 through Oct. 10.