DEAR ABBY: It's Fire Prevention Week again. The theme this year is: "Make Your Place Firesafe: Hunt for Home Hazards."

Last year, 5,410 people died in fires in the USA. And 80 percent of those people died in their own homes. These fires could have been prevented.Abby, please make your readers aware of how they can protect themselves and their families. - ROBERT W. GRANT, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION

DEAR MR. GRANT AND READERS: I'll send up a few smoke signals. First, I have good news and bad news. The good news: Since smoke detectors first became available in 1970, 75 percent of the homes in the United States have been equipped with them.

Now for the bad news: One-third of the smoke detectors are inoperative - in plain English, they don't work! Why? Dead batteries.

Your friendly neighborhood firefighters suggest that on Sunday, Oct. 28, when you turn back your clocks from daylight-saving time, put new batteries in your smoke detectors.

Some lifesaving tips on fire safety: Hunt for electrical hazards. Overloaded electrical outlets, fuses of improper size, frayed cords, cords run under carpets or pinned tightly to the wall are potential fire hazards. Also, don't plug more than one appliance into an extension cord. And when an appliance is not in use, disconnect it.

More lifesaving tips: After parties, before retiring, check your ashtrays for smoldering cigarette butts, and carefully examine all upholstered chairs and sofas to make sure that no "live" cigarette butts have fallen between the cushions. (Most fires occur between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. when people are sleeping.)

Never use flammable liquid for dry cleaning indoors.

Have periodic fire drills in your home to be sure everybody knows how to get out of the house in case of fire.

For a merry Christmas tree, choose one that does not have shedding needles, and keep it standing in water while it's in the house. If you choose an artificial tree, choose one that's flame-resistant.

If you use a portable heater, place it away from furniture, draperies and paper. Remember, the surface heat of some little portables may reach 500 degrees, so keep a careful watch on your children and warn them to keep away from heaters.

Take spring cleaning seriously - clean out your attic, basement, garage and workshop. Throw out trash and combustibles such as rags, newspapers, magazines, boxes of books, etc.

Never smoke while fueling powered lawn mowers or chain saws. And if you must store gasoline, store it in a ventilated area in a container designed especially for that purpose. Store paint and oily rags in a metal container with a tight lid.

Invest in easy-to-use fire extinguishers for your kitchen, bedrooms, and on your boat - if you have one.

The telephone number of your fire department should be taped to every telephone in your house. If it isn't, should a fire occur, don't waste time trying to find the number; get out and call the fire department from a neighbor's house. And once you're out - stay out.

A final shout: Never smoke in bed. And keep your chimneys clean.

1990 Universal Press Syndicate