The American Red Cross has kicked off a new campaign across the country in an effort to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years.

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Seven times a day someone in the U.S. dies in a fire, according to the American Red Cross.

In New Jersey, urban areas are especially problematic. In fact, Perth Amboy has the most fires of any municipality in the state, according to the American Red Cross.  On Oct. 11, Red Cross volunteers were in the city to install smoke alarms in homes that didn't have them.

The American Red Cross is asking every household in America to take two simple steps that can save lives: checking their existing smoke alarms and practicing their fire escape plan.

Diane Concannon, a spokeswoman with the American Red Cross North Jersey Region, said it's important for families to have an escape plan, but they also need to practice that plan too.  "The circumstances during the fire at 2 a.m. in the morning are very different than just sitting around the table and just talking about it with your family."

A recent fire safety poll conducted for the Red Cross revealed that many families have a false sense of security about how safe they are when a fire breaks out at home. For one thing, many believe they have more time to escape from a burning home than they really do.  Sixty-two percent of those polled believe they have at least five minutes to escape and 18 percent believe they have 10 minutes or more.  In reality, fire experts said most people only have as little as two minutes to escape.

Almost 69 percent believe their children would know what to do and how to escape with very little help, and only 48 percent of parents have talked to their children about fire safety.

Concannon said families need a defined escape plan that is repeatedly practiced. "It just comes as second nature if there was ever a circumstance where they need to get out of the house in less than two minutes."

The poll also revealed that only 18 percent of kids between the ages of 3 and 17 have actually practiced fire drills at their house.

Concannon said a familiar escape plan for each and every household member is crucial.  "We're trying to do everything we possibly can to make New Jersey families safer."

According to the Red Cross, families should do the following to increase their chances of surviving a fire:

  • Install a fire alarm on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test fire alarms monthly.
  • Make sure that everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.
  • Practice the escape plan put in place.

In 2013, the Red Cross responded to 1,063 home fires in New Jersey.