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DEAR ABBY: I am writing to plead with you to change your answer to a recent letter concerning dead-bolt locks. The writer reported that the homes of several invalids that he had made deliveries to were equipped with dead-bolt locks requiring a key to exit the homes. He also said the windows were secured with iron bars. He suggested that the occupants should wear the key around their neck to facilitate their exit in case of an emergency, such as a fire. You said he had an excellent idea.

Please, please change your answer. Tell everyone that you can reach that they should never, under any circumstances, install double dead-bolt locks on their home or apartment doors! The double dead-bolt lock turns an ordinary home into a tomb in the event of a fire. Smoke conditions found in an ordinary house fire could make it impossible for even the most alert, physically fit person to exit the home under these conditions. (It is impossible to see or even take a full breath when you're gagging from smoke and terrified.)I have seen an entire family lying just inside the front door, which was locked from the inside with a double dead-bolt lock. The key was there, but the door was still locked. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Window bars also prevent firefighters from rescuing trapped occupants in time to save their lives.

How much of a chance would an invalid have in a similar circumstance? Besides, what good would a double dead-bolt lock do for an invalid in the event that an intruder gained entry to the home and wanted the key to unlock the door from the inside to get out?

I simply cannot imagine what the advantage of such a lock is under ANY circumstances. What possible reason could people have to lock themselves inside a building? Locking people OUT makes sense, but locking people IN does not.

Although I expect that my chances of seeing this in print are very slim, I implore you to consider running it in the best interest of your readers.

Fire officials across this country have been advocating the elimination of double dead-bolt locks for many years, to little avail, and we need help. They are prohibited in dwelling units in the state of Michigan, and in our opinion, their sale should also be against the law. - WILLIAM H. CROUCH, PRESIDENT, SOUTHEASTERN MICHIGAN FIRE CHIEFS ASSOCIATION

DEAR CHIEF CROUCH: Your letter will probably fill the entire space allotted to me for one column, but it is well worth it. Thank you for a lifesaving letter. (P.S. In some states, it is also against the law to have a double dead-bolt lock in a place of business.)

CONFIDENTIAL TO AVOWED ATHEIST IN BATON ROUGE, LA.: To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, 17th-century scientist and religious philosopher: "If there is no God, we have nothing to lose by praying, and if there is one, we have much to lose if we don't."

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