On Nov. 1, fire ripped through an apartment building on Noyes Street in Portland, claiming six lives. Weeks earlier, two young men died in a Biddeford fire. Northern Maine suffered its own tragedy in mid-month, as four people, including three children, were lost in a fire in Caribou.

In the past three months, our state has seen 13 fire-related deaths, a staggering number. The fire victims in Biddeford, Portland and Caribou were all under 30, with long lives ahead of them. The loss leaves family, friends and the community shocked, numb and searching for answers.

Fire-related deaths and injuries are near record levels this year, despite technology that could prevent these needless losses.

It’s time to change that. And we’re calling on readers of this paper to join us.

The American Red Cross, the state Fire Marshal’s Office and local fire departments are joining forces in a nationwide effort to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries by 25 percent over the next five years.

What can everyday Mainers do? First, make sure you have working smoke alarms. Simply put, smoke alarms save lives. Your odds of surviving a fire increase 50 percent if you have a working smoke alarm.

A recent fire in Augusta caused significant damage to a multi-unit apartment building and drove 27 people from their homes. Working detectors and well-maintained exits allowed occupants to escape from the fire in the early stages, resulting in no deaths or injuries.

Far too often, we learn of missing or disabled alarms at scenes of fatal fires. Perhaps a cooking fire set off an alarm and the tenant removed the battery to silence it. Or the alarm was disconnected while a room was being painted. We’ve even heard of parents taking a smoke alarm battery to use in one of their child’s toys.

Smoke alarms are a critical piece of your home safety efforts. Alarms should be installed on each floor, outside sleeping areas and inside each bedroom. It’s important to test your alarm monthly and vacuum them regularly, to keep them free of dust. You should also have a carbon monoxide alarm on each floor and outside sleeping areas to protect your family from this deadly gas.

It’s also important to note that smoke alarms have a lifespan of 10 years. If yours are past the decade mark, replace them. The newer models have 10-year batteries, so you’re covered for the life of the alarm (although you should continue to test them monthly).

While smoke alarms alert you to impending danger, an emergency escape plan will help you get out should fire strike. Every household should develop and practice an emergency escape plan. Include every member of your family, especially kids. If you involve your children in the planning phase, they’ll be more likely to support the plan, and might even have fun doing the drills.

A family escape plan helps ensure that everyone knows what to do in a fire, when time is at a premium.

Your plan should include two ways of escape from each room, and identify a location in the neighborhood for family members to meet. It’s a good idea to also pick a meeting place away from your neighborhood, should something keep you from getting back there. A relative’s or friend’s home is ideal.

A Red Cross survey highlighted the importance of installing smoke alarms and practicing escape plans. It found that Americans greatly overestimate how much time you have to escape a fire. A staggering 62 percent said five minutes, while 18 percent thought 10 minutes.

Realistically, you have about two minutes to escape a burning house. That’s not much time. The early warning of a smoke alarm, combined with a predetermined escape route, can mean the difference between life and death.

This is particularly critical as we approach the holidays and cold weather. The most common types of fires are cooking- and heating-related, so this is an especially important time to take extra precautions.

If the unexpected happens, and your home catches fire, you may only have one chance to get out. As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so please take a few minutes to check or install smoke alarms and practice an escape plan.

We hope you’ll never experience a home fire, but if you do, we want you to get out quickly and safely.