News You Can Use: How to Survive a Fire

Nobody expects it to happen to them, but they should. Of all the disasters that can strike a home, fire is the most common.

Although smoke detectors are now common, fire damages or destroys hundreds of thousands of homes each year.

Fires account for more than 90 percent of American Red Cross disaster responses.

"Nobody is immune to a home fire," Red Cross preparedness and response spokesperson Tara Lynch says.

But she says there are things you can do to help keep your family safe. The Red Cross advice boils down to three principles: Get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.

Get a Kit

Every home should have smoke detectors, a fire extinguisher and an evacuation kit.

Smoke detectors should be placed outside of every sleeping area and on every floor.

Your local fire station will train you on how to use a fire extinguisher.

The evacuation kit should include a flashlight, IDs, driver's licenses and insurance papers, plus essential medication, and even leashes and pet supplies.

Make a Plan

Families should gather to make a fire escape plan and practice that plan at least twice a year.

People in multi-story homes will need a fire ladder.

Families should also designate a place to meet after evacuation.

Even though it can be scary for children and hard for parents to consider the possibility of a fire, proper planning can make an enormous difference in the event of an emergency.

Be Informed

Home fires are more likely to start in a kitchen than in any other room.

Never leave a stove unattended, and be particularly careful with space heaters.

A Red Cross survey found that 49 percent of families with children under the age of 18 were using alternative heat sources each winter. It's important to follow manufacturers' instructions on all heating devices and keep them at least three feet from any other object.

Check your smoke detector twice a year. To help you remember, the Red Cross suggests changing the batteries when you change the clocks in the spring and fall.

The clocks change next month, so it's time to pick up new batteries and make sure your home is as safe as possible.