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A fire escape plan can mean life or death for your family

Winter is coming — sort of.

With lows expected to drop into the mid-30s it will certainly feel like winter this weekend. With cooler weather comes an increased risk of fires due to heaters.

State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney urges residents to use caution when using space heaters and other types of heating devices.

“As days get milder and nights grow cooler, many Mississippians, especially the elderly, who are more susceptible to the cold, are beginning to turn on and use space heaters,” Chaney said. “Too many fires and fire deaths are caused by faulty heating equipment or people using ill-advised methods to stay warm.”

A National Fire Protection Association report shows the leading cause of home heating fire deaths is the proximity of heating devices to clothing, mattresses or bedding. Home heating fires peak from 6 to 8 p.m., and associated deaths peak from 2 to 4 a.m.

Space heaters cause about one-third of all winter house fires and 80 percent of all winter-heating fire deaths, according to the NFPA. Space heaters also account for more than 70 percent of all winter fire injuries and half of all property damage caused  in  heating fires, according to the organization.

As you prepare for cooler weather, take precautions when it come to heaters. Also, use this time to ensure that your smoke detectors are working properly.

Fire safety officials also encourage residents to have a home escape plan in case of a fire. Modern homes burn at an increase rate, according to NFPA, making a fire escape plan all the more important.

A home escape plan should include:

• Working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and near all sleeping areas.

• Two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window.

• A clear path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) that’s a safe distance from the home.

A home escape plan can mean the difference between life and death.