MOST people are aware that the best way to protect your home from fire is to have a smoke alarm, but how often do you check it actually works?
With homes under increased risk over the festive season, fire chiefs are urging Scots to ensure they have a working smoke alarm which is tested every week in case the worst should happen.
This appeal comes on the back of new figures which highlight that, in around half of the fire deaths recorded last year, the lack of a smoke alarm or working smoke alarm was a factor.
And with the festive season and its celebrations bringing a range of new hazards into the home, it's worth taking the time to check your smoke alarm is working - particularly as tree lights, decorative lit candles, cooking accidents, overloading of electrical sockets and misuse of cigarettes, lighters, matches and alcohol all increase the risk.
Lewis Ramsay, assistant chief officer and director of community safety at Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service, explained why people can't afford to ignore the risks.
"The message, as with any time of the year, is to get your home properly protected by installing and regularly testing your smoke alarm, and ensuring batteries are never removed," he said. "We know from statistics the very real threat fire can pose, particularly when people come together to celebrate and houses are decorated with a host of decorations which can and do cause fires.
"All electrical appliances not designed to be left switched on, including fairy lights which can overheat, should be switched off when not in use to reduce the risk. Every home should have a working smoke alarm fitted to provide early warning of the onset of fire and help keep the holidays safe."
The best way to make sure you're doing everything you can to safeguard your home from fire throughout the rest of the year is to request a free home fire safety visit from your local fire and rescue service. The visits, carried out as part of the services' commitment to ensuring the safety of communities, only take around 20 minutes and involve firefighters coming to your home, providing practical fire safety advice and fitting free smoke alarms if required.
As part of a campaign to help drive down the number of fires, injuries and fatalities in Scotland, the fire and rescue services are touring with a set of a burnt-out living room to towns and cities across the country over the next two months to encourage householders to sign up.
David Lockhart, from Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, said the home fire safety visit can ensure homes have the protection they need.
"We're really pleased with the response the tour has had," he said. "People might think about fire safety when they read about it in the paper or see a bad fire on the TV, but we know that in the main people don't think it will ever happen to them.
"Having a working smoke alarm and knowing what to do in those vital minutes after discovering a fire is crucial. We know that people who have had these visits and subsequently had a fire in their home have used what they learnt to escape and ensure that they and their family can get out safely and raise the alarm."
Roseanna Cunningham, Scottish minister for community safety and legal affairs, said: "The number of lives lost to fire in Scotland has fallen for the third year in a row, but we cannot forget the victims and families affected. Every life lost to fire is a tragedy and lessons must be learnt to ensure the number of lives lost continues to fall. That's why this campaign is so important.
"We all want our communities to be safe from fire, especially at this time of year. The Scottish Government and fire and rescue services continue to work hard educating people about the risks of fire - be it alcohol consumption, smoking, misuse of electrical appliances, the overloading of electrical sockets or by other means - and this festive period, the most important message we can give is not to be complacent and always be on your guard."
* You can text FIRE to 61611 to request a free home fire safety visit or visit www.dontgivefireahome.org for fire safety advice.