Dear Readers: Fires can spread really fast in your home. And be aware that heat and smoke can be more dangerous than flames. Gases can make you sleepy. Every family member should know what to do in this kind of emergency. Here are the steps you should take if a fire breaks out in your home.

If the fire is small, you can use a fire extinguisher (you should keep several fire extinguishers in your house) to put out the fire. But if you cannot contain the flames, alert family members and scream “Fire!” and get everyone out of the house as quickly as you can. When you are outside, call 911. If your clothes have caught on fire, drop to the ground and roll back and forth until the flames are out.

If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke is blocking an escape route, use a second way out. Do not open doors that are warm to the touch. And if you have to escape through smoke, go low and try to go under the smoke on your way to an exit. Close doors behind you.

However, if heat, smoke or flames block your exit route, fire experts say to remain in the room with the doors closed. If possible, put a wet towel under the door, and if you have your cellphone, try to let the fire department know where you are in the house.

— Heloise

Where to write: Got a hint you want to share? Send your tips and tricks to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000. Send a fax to 1-210-HELOISE, or email