Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tis the season to be … SAFE! Deck the halls with boughs of Safety

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it may be tempting to take a few short cuts. Fire Chief Scott Goldstein asks that you make sure that safety isn’t one of them!   


Christmas trees require special attention. When selecting a tree, freshness is important. Check the needles to make sure they are green and difficult to pull back from the branches. If the tree has been freshly cut, the needles should not break. Tap the tree on the ground several times and notice if any needles fall off. If they do, the tree is probably dried out and could be a fire hazard.  Water your tree daily and do not place the tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace, radiator, space heater or heat vent. Make sure your tree is in a sturdy holder and can't be knocked over by pets or children.

Using extension cords? Overloaded extension cords and outlets can present a serious fire safety hazard. Make sure that the extension cord is suitable for the electrical “load” needed. Do not place cords under furniture or rugs and never plug two extension cords together to increase the total length. Demanding too much power from an extension cord risks overheating and fire. Be sure to read all packaging and instructions carefully when purchasing an extension cord and ensure it is UL listed.

Holiday lights. Indoors or out, only use lights that have been tested by an approved testing laboratory for safety such as UL. All lights should be inspected for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets or excessive wear before plugging them in and discard any damaged sets of lights. Avoid stringing more than three light 
strands together.

Firing up the fireplace?
 Cool your ashes! Every year “cold” ashes result in house fires. Treat all ashes and coals as HOT ashes, even when you think they have had enough time to cool. Your garage, house or deck are unsafe locations for ashes to cool and have been the site of many recent and devastating fires both locally and nationally. Take extreme care when disposing ashes and follow these tips: 

-          Allow all ashes to cool in place for several days, when possible.
-         When it’s time to dispose of ashes, transfer them to a metal container and wet them down. Only use an approved metal ash bucket that has a tight fitting metal lid.
-         Store the container outside, away from structures, decks, fences, wood piles or other combustible materials.
-          Never use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes and don’t dispose of ashes outside on a windy day. The wind can whip up what may have seemed like cool embers, making them fiery hot, and igniting nearby combustibles.

Candle fires peak during the holiday season. Most holiday candle fires occur when people leave burning candles unattended or place candles too close to holiday decorations. Keep candles in sight, in a secure holder and on a safe surface away from children and pets. Consider using flameless, battery-operated candles making them much safer.

Give space heaters space and ensure at least a 3-foot clearance from anything that can burn. Do not overload the electrical circuit or use extension cords with space heaters. Always stay in the room while a space heater is operating and turn it off when leaving the room or going to sleep. Follow all manufacturer recommendations and make sure your space heater meets all safety standards.

Cooking is a top cause of holiday fires. Be alert, focused and stay in the kitchen when cooking. Keep things that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels away from the cooking area. Make sure kids and pets stay at least three feet away from the stove and oven, hot food, and liquids to avoid serious burns.

Disposing of your tree –
never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by having the County’s recycling service pick it up on the designated day(s).

Do you hear what I hear? Having working smoke alarms DOUBLE your chances of surviving a fire however smoke alarms do not last forever. If your alarms are 10 years old or older, they need to be replaced with new alarms.  Bottom line: don't wait for a fire to test your smoke alarm. 




Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Wins FIRST Place - For Most Cooking Fires!


More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein is urging residents to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and to keep safety at the top of everyone’s “to do” list this holiday season. “Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a rookie cooking your first holiday feast, the strategies for serving up a safe meal are the same,” said Chief Goldstein. “Unattended cooking is the leading cause of residential fires and we’re asking residents to follow these simple safety tips and to have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Cooking Safety Tips:


  • Be alert! Stay in the kitchen when using the stovetop and use a timer. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a minute, turn off the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire at least 3 feet from the stove, toaster oven or other heat source. This includes pot holders, food packaging, dish towels, paper/plastic bags, etc.
  • Do not pour water on a grease fire. Pouring water on a grease fire can cause the fire to spread. In the event of a range-top fire, turn off the burner, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by carefully sliding a lid or cookie sheet onto the pan. Leave the lid in place until the pot or pan has cooled.
  • Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease buildup which can ignite.
  • Always wear short, tight-fitting sleeves when cooking to prevent clothing from coming in contact with a burner and catching fire.
  • Do not hold children while cooking or carrying hot foods or drinks. Keep children at a safe distance from hot surfaces, liquids and other kitchen hazards.
  •  Plug microwaves and other kitchen appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  • Double-check the kitchen before you go to bed or leave the house. Make sure all other appliances are turned off and that any candles or smoking materials are safely extinguished.
  • Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, test alarms monthly and change batteries annually or as recommended by the manufacturer if your alarm features long-life batteries.

  • Turkey fryers are becoming an increasingly popular choice to cook the Thanksgiving turkey and can be extremely dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. If your plans include using a turkey fryer, fire department officials urge residents to follow all manufacturer directions closely and to review the following safety tips: 

    Turkey Fryer Safety Tips:


  • Never leave a fryer unattended.
  • By design, turkey fryers are prone to tipping over. Fryers should always be used on a non-combustible, flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Fryers should always be used outdoors at least 10 feet from buildings and any flammable materials. Never use a fryer on a wooden deck, under a patio cover, in a garage, porch or other enclosed space.
  • Do not overfill the fryer. The oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner/flames resulting in a potential fire hazard that could engulf the entire unit.
  • Oil and water do not mix! Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before it is placed in a fryer. Partially frozen turkeys can cause a spillover effect which may result in a fire. 
  • Some units do not have thermostat controls and, if not carefully watched, have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching the pot or lid handle. The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot and can result in severe burns. If available, use safety goggles to protect your eyes from any oil splatter.
  • Keep children and pets away from fryers. The oil can remain dangerously hot even hours after use.
  • Following these simple fire safety tips can boost survival rates and reduce injuries dramatically.  For more information about our fire safety programs or to request a free home safety evaluation or smoke alarm check, call 311 during business hours or visit our website at mcfrs.org/mcsafe at any time.
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    Saturday, November 4, 2017

    Time to Fall Back

    Home Fires Peak During the Winter Months. This simple task can be a potentially life-saving one. 
    Chief Scott Goldstein is reminding residents that one simple task can be a potentially life-saving one. The Chief is urging all residents to test and check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are working and up-to-date when they change their clocks this weekend. 

    Did you know the peak time for home fire fatalities is between 11 pm and 6 am when most families are sleeping? A working smoke alarm dramatically increases the chances for survival and provides advance warning of a fire resulting in more time to react and put a home escape plan into action. Help keep your family safe by following these fire safety tips:

    1. Install smoke alarms on all levels of your home, including the basement and in all sleeping areas.
    2. Test smoke alarms each month to ensure they are working. Replace batteries annually, as needed or required by manufacturer.

    3. Plan and practice home fire drills regularly. 
    Decide in advance who will help family members that may need  assistance escaping (young children, older adults or people with disabilities).
    4. Retire old smoke alarms and replace with new ones every 10 years, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
    5. Make sure children recognize the sound of your smoke alarm and how to respond to its signal.

    6. After a decade of research, UL's Firefighter Safety Research Institute found that a simple behavioral change, closing your bedroom door, could have a potentially life-saving impact. Tests showed that a closed door made a life-saving difference in the event of a fire. A room with an open door showed temperatures over 1000 degrees, while a room with a closed door had temperatures at only 100 degrees. Research also showed that a closed door kept room conditions survivable longer than an open door.

    7. Know your battery type. Smoke alarms equipped with 10-year batteries are becoming more common. Check your smoke alarms to see what type of battery it has. The 10-year batteries don’t need to be replaced annually, but the entire smoke alarm does need to be replaced every ten years. Maryland’s new law (effective 1/1/2018) affects battery-operated smoke alarms and requires that alarms have SEALED IN, 10-year long life batteries which last for the life of the alarm. Do the math – that’s 10 years.  


    Got questions? Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is here to help! Call 311 or visit us on line to schedule your free home safety check. Be sure to bookmark our website for year-round safety information at: www.mcfrs.org/mcsafe


    Monday, October 30, 2017

    Countdown to Halloween - Tips for a Safe and Fun Night

    With Halloween quickly approaching, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service offers some important tips for a safe Halloween. "Recent research shows that children are four times more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than any other night of the year, said Fire Chief Scott Goldstein. “Fatal collisions between motor vehicles and young pedestrians occur most frequently between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. It’s a dangerous night because so many kids are on the streets, many without their parents or an adult, and in their excitement often forget important pedestrian safety rules.”

    Plan a safe route.

    1. Accompany children and remind them to stop at all street corners, cross only at intersections and crosswalks. Teach them to look left, right and left before crossing the street and to continue looking both ways as they cross. If you’re a motorist, please slow down and be prepared to give trick or treaters a brake.

    2. Stay in familiar neighborhoods and have a parent or responsible adult accompany trick or treaters. Visit only those houses where the lights are on. Accept treats only in the doorway and NEVER go inside a house or apartment.

    3. Secure emergency identification (name, address, phone number) discreetly within Halloween attire or on a bracelet.

    4. Safety in numbers. If they’re old enough to trick-or-treat without an adult, designate a route before the kids go trick or treating, tell your kids to stay in a group, avoid taking short cuts through backyards and alleys and ask them to check in regularly.

    5. Ensure trick-or-treaters stay away from open flames or jack-o-lanterns with candles burning.

    6. Children should avoid busy streets, always use sidewalks, and follow all traffic rules and regulations. Motorists should drive slowly and be alert to small children crossing streets. Many accidents occur when motorists are backing vehicles out of driveways, unaware of the presence of small children.

    Be a good neighbor.
     
    1. Keep your porch lights on and eliminate tripping hazards on your porch and walkway.  Remove outdoor safety hazards such as toys, bicycles, garden hoses and lawn ornaments. Make sure the driveway and steps are cleared of leaves, which can be a slipping and falling hazard. Make sure that the driveway and walks are well lit for incoming trick-or-treaters. Replace burned-out or broken light bulbs.

    2. Pets get frightened on Halloween. Confine your pets for their safety and for that of trick or treaters.

    Be Safe – Be Seen.

    1. Don't assume the right-of-way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters in the dark. Just because one car stops doesn't mean others will. 

    2. Encourage kids to follow all the rules for pedestrian safety. That includes obeying all traffic laws, looking both ways before crossing, using crosswalks, crossing at intersections and corners and never darting between parked cars.

    All Dressed Up.

    1. Plan costumes that are bright and have reflective qualities. Consider adding reflective tape or decals to costumes and trick or treat bags. Be sure kids carry a flashlight and use glow sticks for extra visibility.

    2. When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories purchase only those with a label indicating they are flame resistant.

    3. Have an adult inspect treats BEFORE eating anything. Do not eat any unwrapped, partially wrapped, or homemade-looking treats.

    4. Shorter IS safer. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.

    5. Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup as a safer alternative.

    6. If a sword, cane or stick is part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if they trip or fall.

    Decorate Safely.

    1. Illuminate your jack-o’-lanterns with flashlights or battery-operated candles instead of real ones. You won’t have the worries of an open flame coming in contact with anything or anyone.

    2. If you do use candles, keep them well away from where trick or treaters will be walking or standing. Review with your children the principle of “stop, drop and roll” should their clothing catch fire.

    Lastly, teach children how to call 9-1-1 if they have an emergency or become lost.

    Tuesday, August 1, 2017

    It’s National Night Out – make sure we find you in an EMERGENCY!


    National Night Out is a premier community-building event in the County. Do you know the police officers who work to keep your neighborhood and your family safe? Come out to the many National Night Out events being celebrated around the County and meet the first responders that serve your community and on your way home --- check your house numbers and make sure they are visible. 

    In an emergency, police, fire and rescue workers depend on house numbers to find YOU as quickly as possible. Finding your home - especially at night - can be challenging if address numbers are unreadable, hidden, unlighted or have missing numbers and may delay emergency responders from getting to you as quickly as possible.
    Are your house numbers visible from the street? Are they set on a background of contrasting color? If your house is hidden from the street, are your numbers attached to a visible fence, mailbox or gate? Is your mobile home identified with your house number? If you live on a corner, does your house number face the street named in your address?
    If you've answered "no" to any of these questions, please follow the guidelines below to make sure your house number is easy to read:

    1. Numbers must be visible from the street. Existing residential home numbering can be 3 1/2 inches high, however new residential homes must be at least 5 inches high and if you replace existing numbers they must be at least 5 inches high.

    2. Numbers should be placed on a contrasting background, with a reflective coating on the numbers for easy visibility at night.

    3. Repair or replace aging address number placards, especially on mailboxes that are a distance from the front of the residence.

    4. Prune any bushes, tree limbs or other growth that has covered your house numbers.

    5. Numbers should be placed on or beside the front door. If your door is not easily seen from the street, put the numbers on a post, fence or tree at the driveway entrance so they can be clearly seen from the street. In addition to numbers on the front door of your house, if you have a rural-style mailbox, reflective and contrasting numbers should be placed on both sides of the box so they can be seen by an emergency vehicle approaching from either direction.

    Montgomery County Code on Addresses
    a.The owner of any structure presently existing or constructed in the future must display Arabic numbers designating the address assigned to the structure by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, or by the municipality in which the structure is located. Numbers must be at least five (5) inches high for single-family detached and attached residences and at least six (6) inches high for commercial, industrial or multifamily structures. However, if the numbers designating the address of a single-family residence on April 5, 1988, were at least three (3) inches high, those numbers comply with the size requirement of this section as long as they remain in place. Address displays must be posted on a contrasting background displayed in a conspicuous place that is unobstructed and clearly readable from the street named in the official address of the structure. Where a structure has more than one (1) address or where more than one (1) structure shares a common entry or driveway, numbers must designate the addresses in sequence.

    b. An agency of the county must not require a permit for a sign containing only the address of a residence if the sign is smaller than a maximum size set by the county executive by regulation.