Dear Heloise: My husband and I always plan a vacation far enough ahead so we can read up on the LOCAL CUSTOMS, learn a few words in the native language and find out where things are and how to get there.

By learning what is acceptable and what is not, we've saved ourselves a lot of embarrassing moments. — Tom and Joyce M., Tampa, Fla.

Dear Heloise: We recently had a fire in our kitchen. I pulled out a fire extinguisher we had in a cabinet, and it didn't work!

Please advise your readers to make sure they have a fire extinguisher handy AND that it works properly.

Here are some other things we have learned:

* Check online to see if you have a fire extinguisher model that's been recalled. Some have been recalled due to clogging.

* Make sure you have the correct size and type for your home.

* For a rechargeable extinguisher, have it serviced once a year.

* Always pull out the safety pin before operating the squeeze handle.

* Aim at the base of the fire, using a sweeping motion.

— Fred A., Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Dear Reader: Watch out for any calls from area codes 268, 284, 876 and 809.

These come from the Caribbean and are most often scammers who are trying to take advantage of you.

Landline users can press *77 to block "anonymous" and "private" callers for free. Dial *87 to deactivate it at any time.

— Heloise

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