FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — While fire safety is a year-round concern, most fires happen in the fall and winter months. Here’s a roundup of fall fire safety tips to keep your family safe and sound.

Cozy up to a safe fireplace.

Fireplaces are involved in thousands of home fires each year, so it is important to have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned when needed — and if you have a gas fireplace, have all the connections and lines checked.

Creosote, the buildup of deposits, is a top reason for fireplace fires, and cracks can allow poisonous carbon monoxide to seep into your home. A thorough inspection will also remove any animals that may have built a home in your chimney during the summer.

When you have a fire going, a fireplace screen is a good way to keep sparks from floating out. Remember not to leave your home or go to bed with a fire left burning, and be sure to burn only dry, seasoned hardwoods.

Change your clock and change your battery.

Most people remember to set their clocks back an hour in the fall, but sometimes forget it’s also time to change the batteries in your smoke alarms. Be sure there are working smoke alarms on each floor of your home, particularly outside of sleeping areas. Approximately 20 percent of alarms don’t work because of dead or missing batteries.

In addition to replacing smoke alarm batteries every year, smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. Families should also keep — and learn how to select and use — a fire extinguisher in places where there is a risk of fire, such as a home workshop or the kitchen. Install fire extinguishers near exits and check them periodically according to manufacturer’s specifications.

Have an escape plan in place.

Be sure you have a family fire escape plan and practice it regularly. Have an escape route for each area of your home and a designated meeting place outside. Draw a map of the escape plan and make it easy for all members of the family to understand. Train everyone to stay low to the ground when escaping a fire.

If you must travel through smoke to your exit, crawl and keep your head about 12 to 24 inches above the floor, and keep in mind windows may provide a secondary means of escape from a burning home. For two-story homes, you may consider purchasing a non-combustible escape ladder that’s tested and listed by an independent testing laboratory — escape ladders are available at most hardware stores.

Store the escape ladder permanently near the window. I recommend buying one that hooks and hangs away from the house, rather than right up against it. Practice deploying the ladder, and that includes practicing how to use it from a first-floor window. A real fire is not the time to learn.

Keep children safe from fire.

More than 200 children die annually, and $235 million in property is destroyed in fires attributed to children playing with fire. This is preventable. Here are some fire safety tips for every household with children:

  • Store matches and cigarette lighters out of sight and out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Teach children to tell an adult if they find matches or lighters.
  • Identify and eliminate fire and burn hazards in your home.
  • Be a role model with such items as candles and fireplaces. Never play with fire. Children emulate adult behavior.
  • Teach your children how to report an emergency. Post 9-1-1 stickers and other emergency numbers in a location known to your children.
  • Have your children memorize your phone number and address, including city and state. Plus, teach them to get out first and then call for help.
  • Teach the “stop, drop and roll” technique for clothes on fire. For those who use wheelchairs, learn how to use a rug or heavy fabric to smother flames.

Residents are encouraged to call the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Prevention Section at 573.596.0886 with any questions concerning fire safety, home safety, child safety seat inspections and our “Juvenile Fire Setter” program.