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How can I ensure my family will be safe in an emergency?

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June is National Safety Month, making it an excellent time to review your family's safety systems and procedures.

Do you know how to turn off your utilities? An emergency may require you to shut down your water, electrical or gas lines in a pinch. None of these are difficult to do, but you don't want to be fumbling around to figure it out when seconds count. Learn where your home's shutoff points are, and how to access them.

PREPARE FOR HOME FIRES

At least twice per year, inspect your smoke alarms and check that their batteries are still working.

Do you have a fire extinguisher in your home? Equally important, is it up to date? Fire extinguishers lose pressure over time, so periodically check its meter to make sure it's retaining the correct pressure level. A professional can usually recharge your extinguisher if it's lost chemicals or pressure.

Make sure the extinguisher is kept in an accessible place, and that everyone in the family knows where it is and how to use it.

Residential extinguishers are rated A, B or C or a combination of them. Here's what they mean:

A rating: Puts out fires fueled by wood, paper or cloth.

B rating: Fights fires fueled by liquids such as oil or gasoline.

C rating: Puts out electrical fires.

An ABC fire extinguisher can handle most situations in your house. However, if you have a separate extinguisher for your kitchen, experts recommend a BC extinguisher, which forms a layer that keeps grease from reigniting.

Design a family escape plan, and practice it. According to the American Red Cross, everyone in the household should know two ways to escape from each room in the house. A family should also decide on a place to meet outside of the home after it's been evacuated.

After a family devises a plan, they should practice and time the drills and try to evacuate the home consistently in under two minutes. Smoke is dangerous, so practice low crawling.

ASSEMBLE AN EMERGENCY KIT

The Federal Emergency Management Agency strongly urges homeowners to maintain an emergency kit with enough supplies to sustain them for up to 72 hours without help following a disaster. Assemble it well in advance of an emergency and store it in an easily accessible location. A kit should contain at least the following items:

One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days

Enough nonperishable food to sustain the family for three days

Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert

Flashlight

First aid kit

Extra batteries

Whistle to signal for help

Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Manual can opener for food

Local maps

Cellphone with chargers and a backup battery

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