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      Firefighters urge the community to "Have Two Ways Out"

      COLUMBIA (WACH) - October is Fire Safety Month and firefighters in the Midlands are working to make sure the community is informed about fire prevention.

      Midlands firefighters joined together to kick off Fire Prevention Week on Monday with a parade that toured from Main and Laurel Streets to Main and Gervais Streets.

      The campaign for this year's Fire Prevention Week is "Have Two Ways Out!"

      The Irmo Fire District and the Columbia-Richland Fire Department are challenging the community to think ahead when it comes to fire safety.

      Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins urges families in the City of Columbia and Richland County to have a fire escape plan that includes two ways out.

      "One home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds in 2010," said Jenkins. "Fire is unpredictable and moves faster than most people realize. Having a tested escape plan with two ways out is essential to ensuring your family's safety should fire break out in your home."

      Captain Ben Smith with the Irmo Fire District says families should have a main way out and a back way out of their home in case of a fire.

      "If your first exit is blocked by smoke or flames, you will have that back up plan. And the key with that is to practice. That's what we call exit drills in the home," said Smith.

      Smith says that exit drills in the home are like fire drills kids have at school, and parents can turn them into a game for their children by blindfolding them and asking the kids to see if they can crawl and find their way out of the home.

      "You between three-and-a-half and five-and-a-half minutes to get out of the house when the smoke detector goes off," said Smith.

      Practicing an exit plan prepares the entire family to make the most of the limited time they would have in a real emergency.

      Having a meeting place outside of the home in case of a fire is also important, according to Smith.

      "A good meeting place would be a mailbox, a tree in the front yard, somewhere the whole family can meet once they get out of the home," said Smith.

      Smith also says that kids should understand that firefighters are their friend. They may look scary, but they are there to help.