Chief's Blog

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Preventing Injuries to Child Pedestrians

Parents are the most important models of proper pedestrian behavior for children.
  • Children under the age of ten should not be allowed to cross the street by themselves.
  • Cross streets safely. Cross at a corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. Don't assume that because you can see the driver, the driver can see you. Look left, right and left again when crossing, and keep looking as you cross.Child Pedestrian Safety
  • Teach children to recognize pedestrian crossing signals but not to rely on them. Before crossing, children should also be sure the traffic has stopped. Remind them to continue across if the light changes to "Don't Walk" while they are in the crosswalk.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  • Be a safe pedestrian around cars. Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Parents and children should hold hands in parking lots.
  • Remind your children to be extra alert in bad weather. Visibility might be poor and motorists might not be able to see them or to stop quickly enough.
  • At dawn and dusk, children should wear reflective clothing and carry flashlights.
  • Children should wait for adults on the same side of the street where the school bus loads and unloads students.
  • Teach children to cross the street at least 10 feet in front of a school bus.
Set pedestrian safety rules for your children.
  • Never allow children under age 10 to cross streets alone. Adult supervision is essential until you are sure a child has good traffic skills and judgment.
  • Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
  • Make sure children know to cross 10 feet in front of a school bus, never behind, and to wait for adults on the same side of the street as the school bus loading or unloading zone.
  • Teach your child never to run out into a street for a ball, a pet or any other reason.
Help create an environment that's safe for pedestrians.
  • Make sure your child plays in safe places away from motor vehicles, such as yards, parks and playgrounds - never in the street. Fence off play areas from driveways and streets.
  • Buy clothing and accessories incorporating reflective materials for your family to wear at dawn and dusk, in the evening and during other low-light situations, such as rainy or foggy weather.
  • Check frequently for children when backing out of a driveway or a parking space.
Follow the same rules that you want your child to follow. Be a good "road" model by obeying traffic signals and markings. Even if your children aren't with you, someone else's children may follow your example.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Slow Down, Watch Out. Kids Ahead! Back to School Safety Tips

Children across the region are heading back to school and Fire Chief Steve Lohr is asking all drivers to exercise extra caution and be alert as the school year begins. “Safety is our top priority. With schools back in session, drivers should allow extra time and be on the look-out for children at intersections and in neighborhoods,” said Chief Lohr. “Additionally, as a matter of safety and compliance with laws, drivers are reminded to put their cell phones down and refrain from talking or texting while behind the wheel.”

For Drivers:
·         Be alert and slow down. Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. Put down your phone and never text while driving.  Looking away from the roadway for just two seconds doubles the chance of being involved in a crash.
·         Passengers should wear a seat belt and/or ride in an age and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat. Children of all ages are safest when properly restrained in the backseat of a vehicle.
·         Exercise extra caution as you head out to work and be on the lookout for school buses. Many bus routes or schedules change each year and you may encounter a school bus or stop where you may have never seen one before.
·         Scan between parked cars. Nearly 40 percent of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between the hours of 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., mostly at non-intersection locations, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Children can quickly dart out between parked cars or other objects along the roadway. Motorists should pay close attention not only at intersections, but along any residential roadways where children could be present.
·         Take extra time when making a right turn on a red light and be on the lookout for pedestrians.
·         School Zones: Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and around schools. Be alert to children as you back your vehicle out of your driveway or exit your garage.
·         Expect delays near schools, plan ahead and allow extra time to reach your destination.
·         Safety on the road is especially important for “new” drivers that may be driving to high school for the first time.

Reminders for Parents and Children:
·         Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Children are not always aware of their surroundings and may dart into traffic assuming drivers will see and stop for them. Carefully consider whether your child is ready to walk to school or wait for the bus without adult supervision and walk the route with your child beforehand.
·         Teach children to always cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks and look left, right and left again before crossing. Children may have difficulty gauging the distance and speed of an approaching car, and may not recognize and react to potentially hazardous situations.
·         If traveling to school by bike, obey the rules of the road and wear a helmet. Not only is it the smart thing to do, it is also the law in Maryland.
·         Be sure that your child knows his or her phone number and address, your work number and when to call 911 for emergencies.
·         Only drive or park in authorized areas when picking up or dropping off students at school.
·         Be a good neighbor. Respect private property and always be on your best behavior while waiting for the bus.

School Bus Safety – What Motorists Should Know:

All motorists are required by law to stop when the red lights on buses are flashing. Passing a school bus when the red lights are flashing is not only illegal it is also one of the biggest threats to student safety. Motorists should be aware that the red flashing lights and the stop sign may be engaged shortly after the amber lights are on. Vehicles traveling in the same direction as the bus are always required to stop. In Maryland, the law states that vehicles must come to a complete stop on both sides of the roadway if there is no physical divider or barrier. Violations can result in a citation and fine.

Home Alone

Parents need to carefully consider the pros and cons of having a child stay home alone before/after school. Be familiar with laws and child protective policies in your jurisdiction and, because children mature at different rates, your decision should not be based on age alone. Children should master important safety skills before staying home alone. Be sure to make and practice a home fire escape plan that includes a designated “safe” area outside where everyone will meet if the smoke alarm sounds and ensure they know when and how to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Unattended cooking continues to be the leading cause of home fires in Montgomery County and firefighters strongly recommend having after school snacks on hand that do not require cooking. Children should only use kitchen appliances while under close adult supervision. Additional safety tips can be found on our website at mcfrs.org/mcsafe.

For the law in Maryland
Section 5-801 provides:
(a) A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confirmed in a dwelling, building, enclosure or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.

If you need assistance with fire escape planning or obtaining smoke alarms, call 311 to schedule a free check-up by fire and rescue service representatives. To learn more about what you and your family can do to be safe year-round, visit the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service website at www.mcfrs.org/mcsafe.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Station 16 A-Shift Gets Personal With Safety

By: Master Firefighter Tim Burns


Photo provided by MFF Tim Burns
This week is Senior Safety Week as part of the MCFRS summer of safety. To that end, the crew from Fire Station 16 A-Shift spent a few hours at Schweinhaut Senior Center on Forest Glen Road last weekend speaking with local seniors.

During their visit they were able to explain the new smoke alarm requirements in Montgomery County, perform blood pressure screenings, pass out "File of Life" materials, and schedule personal visits for in home smoke alarm checks for anyone who wanted them.

The crew will be following up with a second visit in September, offering the same services. Additionally, there is talk of a pool tournament in the future between some of the resident sharks at the center and the crew from 16-A, all for fun of course.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Home Fire Safety for Family and Friends of Older Adults

When it comes to fire, adults over age 65 are at greater risk than any other group. Most fire deaths occur in the home and it is important for older adults to know how to protect themselves. If you have a relative, friend or neighbor in this high-risk group, please take a few minutes to complete this fire safety check of their home.

Conduct the following safety checks:

Can everyone hear the smoke alarm?
  • Check that the smoke alarms have been tested. If not, test the smoke alarm by pressing the alarm test button. If it is difficult to reach, use a broom handle or ruler to test it.
  • Check that the batteries have been changed within the past year. Batteries should be replaced each year. It is a good idea to mark the date on the batteries so that anyone will know when they were last replaced. Families are encouraged to change the batteries in the fall during "Change your Clock, Change Your Batteries" programs.

    A chirping sound indicates a low battery, but this sound can be difficult for an older person to hear or recognize.
  • Check for scorch marks on pots and pans. If you find scorch marks, discuss with the older person. He/she may be leaving cooking unattended.
  • Check that clothing, bedding, furniture and floors are free of cigarette burns.If you find cigarette burns, discuss the situation with your older friend or relative.

Fire Safety

What would you do if the room filled with smoke?
        Demonstrate how to crawl low and go.
For those living in apartments:
Do you know the sound of the fire alarm and what to do if the alarm sounds?Find out correct procedures from building management.
Do you ever leave cooking unattended?
Most kitchen fires start because cooking food has been left unattended. Never leave items cooking unattended on the stovetop. It's best to turn off the stove before leaving the kitchen and to closely monitor things cooking in the oven. Use a timer or take an item such as a potholder as a reminder if there is something cooking in the oven.
Do you know what to do if a pot on the stove catches fire?
Keep a proper fitting lid nearby and safely slide it over the burning pot.
  • If a grease fire starts:
    • Using a potholder, place a lid over the burning pan.Is there a phone near your bed in case you need help?
    • Turn off the heat source.
    • Leave the lid on the pan until it is completely cool.
    • Never use water on a grease fire.
    • Don't try to carry a pan that is on fire to the sink or outdoors. Smother the fire with a lid and leave the pan where it is.
Are combustibles or things that can easily ignite, such as dish towels or curtains near the stove?
Keep anything that can easily catch fire away from the stove.
Do you wear tight-fitting or rolled up sleeves when you use the stove?
Dangling sleeves can easily brush against a hot burner and quickly catch fire.
Are you careful not to reach over hot burners?
Use the front burners as much as possible.
Do you keep portable heaters at least 3 feet from any combustible materials, such as drapes, clothing or furniture?
Space heaters can quickly warm up a cold room, but they have also been the cause of many serious home fires. Remind your friend or relative that portable heaters should be at least three feet from all combustible materials, including paper, bedding, furniture and curtains. Never use your heater to dry clothing or shoes and make sure that all heaters are turned off before leaving your home or going to bed.
If you smoke, do you consider yourself a careful smoker?
Smokers should use large, deep ashtrays and never smoke when drowsy or in bed.
Where do you empty your ashtrays?
Soak cigarette butts and cigar ashes in water before discarding or in a non-combustible can. Ashes from a cigarette can smolder for hours before a flare-up occurs.
Are you cautious when your drink and smoke?
Drinking alcohol while smoking is a deadly combination and account for many fire deaths.
Take a few minutes to learn about safety in the home and get family members involved! With a little planning, many injuries and deaths from fires and unintentional injuries could be prevented. We put safety where you put your family - FIRST. Please don't hesitate to call the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service if you need help with any aspect of your home safety.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fire Safety Checklist for Older Adults

Knowing what to do in the event of a fire is particularly important for older adults. Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the population and also one of the groups at highest risk for fire death and injury. Mobility and reaction times may be slowed; the senses of sight, hearing and smell may be diminished and medications may increase drowsiness, confusion or disorientation. At age 65, people are TWICE as likely to be killed or injured by fires. By age 75, people are nearly FOUR times as likely to die in a fire and over the age of 85? The risk of dying in a fire is increased FIVE times.

If a fire started in your home, would you be able to get out in time? Increase your chances of survival by reviewing these safety tips and remember, having working smoke alarms double your chances of surviving a home fire.

Why are Older Adults at Risk?

  • Conditions associated with the aging process place older adults at increased risk for fire injury and death. Chronic illness, decreased mobility, health, sight, and hearing may limit a person's ability to take the quick action necessary to escape during a fire emergency.
  • Depending on physical limitations, many of the actions an individual can take to protect themselves from the dangers of fire may require help from a caregiver, neighbor or other source.
  • Decreased healing mechanisms. As a result, older adults tend to die from smaller burns, have longer hospital stays and require more time to recuperate from burn injuries.
  • Many medications prescribed to treat the ailments of the elderly may cause confusion and fatigue.

By practicing a few simple fire safety tips, you can greatly reduce your chances of experiencing a fire:

Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms.

Smoke Alarms
The single most important step you can take to save your life during a fire is to install a smoke alarm that suits your needs. A working smoke alarm can make a vital difference in the event of a fire and may reduce the risk of dying in a fire by as much as 60 percent. Install working smoke alarms on every level of your home and in sleeping areas. A working smoke alarm can alert you to the presence of deadly smoke while there is still time to escape. Test and dust each smoke alarm monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Change the battery immediately if the unit starts making a "chirping" sound alerting you to a low battery.
It is estimated that one-third of those between the ages of 65 and 75, and one-half of those over 75 have some degree of hearing loss. Deaf and hard of hearing persons cannot rely on traditional audible smoke alarms, but can rely on a vibrating or visual alarms equipped with strobe lights. If you are hearing-impaired, install an alarm that alerts using these signals. Ask friends, family members, building managers or call the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service at 240-777-2467 to install and test the batteries in your smoke alarm if it is hard to reach or to get information on smoke alarms for the hearing impaired.

Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths in the United States.

Smoking
If you smoke, do it with care. Many fires are started when ashes or cigarette butts fall onto couches, chairs, wooden decks or in mulch. Ashes can smolder for hours before re-igniting.
  • Never smoke in bed, while drowsy, or while under the influence of medication or alcohol.
  • Use large, deep ashtrays for smoking debris and let the contents cool and douse with water before you dispose of them.
  • Put ashtrays in the sink, fill with water, and let it sit overnight before you dispose of the contents. Or, dispose of cigarettes and matches in a metal container, such as a coffee can with a lid, and let it cool overnight.
  • Check furniture for any smoldering cigarette butts and ashes before going to bed.

Pay Attention to Your Cooking.

Cooking
The leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries is careless cooking. Most kitchen fires start because cooking food has been left unattended. Prevent fires and burns by being watchful and alert when you cook, keeping pot handles turned inward, not overheating food (especially fats and oils) and keeping children and pets at least three feet away from the stove. The area around the stove should be kept clear of food packaging, dish towels, newspapers, curtains, cabinets and paper or plastic bags that can easily ignite.
Never lean over a hot burner and wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when cooking to prevent clothing from igniting. Always use pot holders and oven mitts when handling hot pots and pans to prevent burns.

Heat Your Home Safely.

Heating
Have a professional service all heating equipment annually. Keep combustibles and anything that can burn or melt away from all heaters, furnaces, fireplaces and water heaters. Use your range or oven for cooking only - never to heat your home.
Hundreds of fires start each year when things that burn, such as curtains, clothing, bedding, gasoline, or paint solvents are placed too close to heaters, furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, or water heaters. Store flammable liquids like cleaning solvents and gasoline outside of your home. Have at least three feet of clearance in all directions around portable/space heaters. Use the proper fuel for all heating equipment. Change filters in furnaces monthly. Keep chimneys clean. To prevent scalds, set the temperature of your water heater no higher than 120 degrees. All heating devices should be checked by a professional.

Practice Electrical Safety.

electrical
Have a professional electrician inspect your home's electrical wiring system at least every 10 years, and make recommended repairs. Never overload the electrical system. Plug each appliance directly into its own outlet and avoid using extension cords. Have an electrician install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in rooms where water may be present. Install and maintain electrical appliances according to the manufacturers' instructions.
Homes more than 40 years old are three times more likely to catch on fire from electrical causes than homes 11 to 20 years old. That's because older wiring may not have the capacity to safely handle newer appliances and equipment and may not incorporate updated safety features. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are important electrical safety devices that offer superior protection against dangerous electric shock and also may prevent some electrical fires. Have GFCIs installed in bathroom and kitchen circuits and in other locations where water and dampness may be present. Call a professional electrician to make sure you have the proper fuses, find reasons for blown fuses and tripped circuit breakers, replace old or damaged outlets and install more outlets if needed. You are more likely to overload electrical outlets if you use more than one high-wattage appliance on a circuit at a time. Extension cords are meant for temporary use only and should be unplugged when not in use. If you see frayed cords on older appliances, have the cord replaced or; better yet, replace the appliance altogether.

Keep Matches and Lighters Away from Children.

Children and fire - a dangerous, and sometimes deadly, mix. Store matches and lighters in a locked drawer or a high cabinet when you have young visitors in your home. Using lighters that are child-resistant can prevent deaths and injuries.

Use Candles Safely.

As decorative candles have become increasingly popular, candle fires have also increased. If you light candles, keep them away from children and pets, from curtains and furniture, and extinguish them before you leave the room or go to bed. Make sure candles are in sturdy holders that won't tip over and are made of non-flammable material.

Know What to Do in Case of a Fire.

Practicing how you would escape a fire before it strikes will enable you to get out faster. Getting out of your own home sounds easy, but your home can look very different if it's full of smoke. Fire Drills are a good opportunity to make sure that everyone is able to hear and respond to smoke alarms.
  • Draw a layout of your house marking all windows and doors. Plan two routes out of each room and practice your plan.
  • Designate a meeting place outside and take attendance. Get out and stay out. Never go back into a burning or smoky building.
  • Remember to escape first, then call 911. Keep a pair of slippers, eyeglasses and a flashlight by your bed at night. Once you hear the smoke alarm, act quickly and escape.
If you use a wheelchair or walker, or otherwise might have a problem escaping from a fire, discuss your escape plans ahead of time with your family, your building manager and neighbors. Let them know about your special circumstances and ask them to help plan the best escape routes for you. A full fire safety plan covers more than just what to do if the worst happens. It covers prevention and detection too.
The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service sponsors a FREE smoke alarm program for qualifying senior citizens, the disabled and low-income home owners of Montgomery County, Maryland. Please contact us at 240-777-2476 for information.