October is Fire Prevention Month. It’s a good time to pause and educate yourself on fire safety. According to the American Red Cross, more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured each year in house fires, with direct property loss estimated at $7.3 billion annually. House fires are preventable so take action to keep you and your loved ones safe by following these tips.

Smoke Detectors — get in the habit of checking the alarm on smoke detectors monthly and replacing batteries twice a year. Smoke detectors should be installed in every bedroom and on all levels.

Fire Escape Plan — it’s important to create and practice a fire escape plan. Explore alternate escape routes in case the fire is blocking the main exit. If you have small children, National Fire Prevention Agency (NFPA) has an escape planning grid to help them better understand what they should do and where they should go.

Cooking — when using a stovetop, always stay in the kitchen. If you have to leave, even for a brief moment, turn it off. Always stay in your house when you’re using the oven, checking it regularly. It’s also important to keep items that are flammable, such as potholders and towels, away from the stove.

Space Heaters — the number of residential fires typically peaks December through February, mostly due to the increased usage of space heaters. Always read and follow the directions, and keep it at least three feet from anything flammable. Never place a space heater near a bed or in a spot where a child or pet could easily knock it over.

Fire Extinguishers — a fire extinguisher is a good tool when a fire is contained in a small area and used after the fire department has been called. The NFPA says to remember PASS when using an extinguisher.

Did you know there is a shelf-life on fire extinguishers? Check to make sure yours hasn’t expired by looking at the date on the gauge.

Teaching Fire Safety — teach kids the facts so they know how to protect themselves.

Being prepared is the best way to protect you and your loved ones during a fire. Share this article with family and friends so they too can help prevent fires and stay safe.