FORT BENNING Ga. - What's the best way to protect your family from fire? Be ahead of the game, of course. With more than 360,000 home fires reported in the United States in 2009, according to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association, your best defense is a good offense. That's why the Fort Benning Fire Department is teaming up with NFPA Oct. 9-15 to let our community know: "It's Fire Prevention Week. Protect Your Family Fom Fire!" This year's campaign focuses on preventing the leading causes of home fires -- cooking, heating and electrical equipment, as well as candles and smoking materials. Additionally, it urges people to protect their homes and families with lifesaving technology and planning.

In 2009, 2,565 people died in home fires. Nearly all of these deaths could have been prevented by taking a few simple precautions like having working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan, keeping things that can burn away from the stove and always turning off space heaters before going to bed. Fire is a dangerous opponent, but by anticipating the hazards, you are much less likely to be one of the nearly 13,000 people injured in home fires each year.

The Fort Benning Fire Department offers the following tips for protecting your home and family from fire:

• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.

• Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, or portable space heater.

• Have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around open fires and space heaters.

• Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.

• Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed.

While preventing home fires on Fort Benning is always our No. 1 priority, it is not always possible. Fort Benning residents need to provide the best protection to keep their homes and families safe in the event of a fire. You can do this by developing an escape plan that you practice regularly and equipping homes with lifesaving technologies like smoke detectors.

The following tips will help keep your family safe if there is a fire in your home:

• Test smoke alarms at least monthly.

• Make sure everyone in your home knows how to respond if the smoke alarm sounds.

• Walk through your home and inspect all possible ways out, make a plan -- test the plan.

The Fort Benning Fire Department, EMS, and Post Safety will be at the Main PX from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Oct. 13 during Fire Prevention Week promoting educational activities; please come out and join us.