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October 9, 2013

Americans need to be prepared in case of fires

NORMAN — The Great Chicago Fire broke out Oct. 8, 1871, killing more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless. The anniversary of the disaster has been remembered for nearly a century with efforts to spread the word about fire dangers — Fire Prevention Week, it now is called.

Still, too many Americans are unprepared.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they have a home fire escape plan, according to the National Fire Protection Association, but only a quarter has actually practiced it.

Two years ago, home fires injured someone every half-hour, according to the association. Eight people died in fires every day.

Times have changed in the 142 years since the apocryphal story of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow tipping over a lamp in Chicago: The leading cause of fires and fire-related injuries today is cooking, though smoking materials are blamed for a quarter of the fire-related deaths.

Experts say properly installed smoke alarms are vital to reducing those injuries and deaths. But while 96 percent of U.S. households claim to have at least one smoke alarm, firefighters report not finding one in 60 percent of the homes that burn.

All of us should remember this week’s grim anniversary by making sure our home has a working smoke alarm, and just as importantly, having a plan for what to do when they sounds.

— Kokomo, Ind., Tribune

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