PACIFIC COUNTY - Pop quiz: Are you at greater risk from fire in: (a) a high-rise hotel, (b) a house, or (c) an elementary school? If you answered (a), you're mistaken. High-rise hotels are among the safest structures when it comes to fires because they typically have advanced built-in fire protection features such as smoke detectors and fire sprinklers in every room. If you answered (c), we got you again. Only about 1 percent of United States structure fires occur in educational properties.

The correct answer is (b) - you are at greatest risk from fire in your own home. In fact, eight out of 10 fire deaths in the United States take place where most of us feel safest - our home. Although that's alarming, according to the non-profit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), you need not fall victim to fire.

There are three simple steps that everyone can take to make their home safer, says Meri-K Appy, NFPA's vice president for public education. "The steps are easy, but the trick is to convince people that fire isn't someone else's problem; it could actually happen to them." The "Team Up For Fire Safety" Fire Prevention Week campaign is a good reminder of that message, and a way to motivate people to take these simple yet life-saving steps:

• Every household should have working smoke alarms on each level of the home, and outside each sleeping area. Test alarms at least once a month and replace batteries at least once a year. Replace smoke alarms that are 10 years old or older.

• Develop and physically practice a home fire drill with all occupants at least twice a year. Identify two ways out of each room and choose a meeting place outside where you will wait for the fire department.

• Regularly conduct a hunt for home safety hazards. Search for dangers such as fireplaces without screens, unattended candles, or over-flowing ashtrays, and correct the hazards immediately.

"Team Up For Fire Safety" is the theme for Fire Prevention Week 2002, which is taking place this week. In its 80th year of commemoration, FPW is formally proclaimed by the president of the U.S. each year and officially sponsored by NFPA.

This week local fire departments are visiting schools and daycares to bring fire safety messages to children. Parents are encouraged to talk to their students about what they are learning this week about the dangers of fire and how to prevent fires. For more fire prevention information, log onto the official FPW Web site, for free, downloadable safety tips and activities at www.firepreventionweek.org.

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