Every second counts.

Plan two ways out.

That's the message behind this year's Mifflin Township Fire Prevention Week campaign, reminding families they might have only one to two minutes to escape safely once a smoke alarm sounds.

The Mifflin Township Division of Fire will kick off Fire Prevention Week with a visit from MedFlight One, fire rescue demonstrations, a visit from mascot Sparky the Fire Dog and food trucks at an open house from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 8 at Fire Station 131, 475 Rocky Fork Blvd. in Gahanna.

Through educational, family-oriented activities -- such as a meet and greet with the township's firefighters, displays of current emergency vehicles and fire safety-CPR demonstrations -- Gahanna residents can learn more about what they might have to do in an emergency.

"In a fire, seconds count," said Fred Kauser, the division's fire chief.

"Roughly half of home-fire deaths result from fires reported at night, between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most people are asleep. That pre-planning is what everyone will draw upon to snap into action and escape as quickly as possible in the event of a fire," he said.

That's why home-escape planning is so critical, according to Melissa Rapp, Mifflin Township's public information officer.

A plan will help ensure everyone in the household knows how to use that small time window wisely, Rapp said.

Along with firefighters and safety advocates nationwide, Mifflin Township is joining forces with the National Fire Protection Association during Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 8-14, to remind the public about the importance of knowing two ways out during a fire and having an escape plan for their household.

Because the average fire can double in size every minute, using every minute wisely in a fire is critical, according to Rapp.

Additionally, nearly three of five of home-fire deaths result from fires in houses with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, according to the NFPA website.

A home escape plan includes having working smoke alarms on every level of the house, in every bedroom and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place (such as a tree, light pole or mailbox) that is a safe distance from the home.

Officials in Mifflin's fire division advise Gahanna residents to:

* Draw a map of your house with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.

* Practice home fire drills twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in the residence, and practice using different ways out.

* Teach children how to escape on their own, in case adults cannot help them.

* Make sure the house number is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.

* Close doors when leaving rooms; it might slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire.

* Once outside in escaping a fire, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building for anything.

To learn more about smoke alarms and other fire safety tips, visit NFPA's website, firepreventionweek.org.

Mifflin Township fire serves the city of Gahanna and unincorporated township areas.

The division has four fire stations, and employs 74 full-time firefighter-paramedics, six full- or part-time fire prevention officers and 23 full- or part-time dispatchers.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla