Escaping a structure fire is this year's focus of National Fire Prevention Week.  The theme is 'Having Two Ways Out', encouraging everyone to think ahead and prepare a Family Escape Plan prior to any event.

Toms River Bureau of Fire Prevention Public Education Officer Bob Yaiser says in surviving a fire, it's both critical to have an early warning and then knowing what to do when you get that warning.  "He says we need to have a Family Escape Plan that everyone is fully rehearsed with and that we share with baby-sitters as well"

Yaiser says families should also participate in biannual unannounced escape plan drills to make sure everyone's on the same page and that there's a place where everyone meets.  "Because if everyone does something different there's no accountability and it puts a hardship, not only on the family, some folks have lost their lives going back in for children that were already out of the house."  He also says the plans need to include taking people from the home who are incapable of getting out themselves, such as young children, the elderly and handicapped.

Yaiser says having a second way out of a house is also important because sometimes a fire may originate or block a primary way out and your only means of escape would be out a window.  He recommends conducting a survey of your house to make sure all the windows are operable and not jammed.

As far as fire prevention, Yaiser says most blazes are caused by human error with the most common fires ignited in the kitchen when people either leave cooking  food unattended or from grease fires.   However, he says the most fatal fires are a results of improperly discarded cigarettes or fireplace ashes.

He recommends residents keep a can of baking soda on hand to dump on kitchen grease fires, turning off the gas or covering the flames with a lid. He also said you can use a fire extinguisher but be prepared for paint damage when the grease splatters.

As far as cigarette butts and fireplace ashes, he recommends placing them in metal containers when they're fully cooled.

Regarding space heaters: Yaiser says they need at least three feet of space from couches and other furniture and he recommends using heaters that shut off automatically when they tip over.

If you don't have a Family Escape Plan, Yaiser says his office would be glad to assist you or recommend fire officials in your area who can also help.

Contact the Toms River Bureau of Fire Prevention at (732) 240-5153 or access their web page at  He says their web site also has links to the U.S. Fire Administration and numerous other fire prevention links.