From special reports

With colder temperatures in the forecast, Commissioner of Insurance and State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney urges all Mississippians to make heating safety a high priority.

 As the temperature falls in Mississippi, the risk of someone dying in a fire increases significantly. Careless or improper use of heating sources continues to be a leading cause of fire deaths in the state.

"The proper use of appropriate heating sources is vital for survival during the colder temperatures we are expecting in the coming days," Chaney said.

"It takes just one spark. Whether it is a space heater plugged into and overheating an extension cord incapable of handling such voltage or blankets too close to sparks from a fireplace, a fire can start in a moment and end a life in seconds. Using common sense when it comes to heating safety saves both lives and property."

Also critical to fire safety for any home is the installation and use of working smoke alarms, as a working smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a fire in half.

Should a fire break out in the home, Chaney stressed that every home should have an emergency evacuation plan for the family to follow and have a designated meeting place for all family members. Once everyone is outside the burning home, call 911 and do not reenter the home.

"Everyone in your home should know what to do in the event of a fire," Chaney said.

 To create a plan for your family use this Escape Plan Grid (  from the National Safety Council.

 The peak time for home heating fires is between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Fire safety education and preventing fire deaths continue to be priority goals of the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Also, be a good neighbor. Check with the elderly or relatives and friends who may need additional assistance to ensure their safety. If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets.

 For more fire safety information and tips follow @MSInsuranceDept and @msfiresafe on Twitter and Facebook.