Sunday, March 31, 2019

Extension Cord Safety

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Extension cords are a convenient way to bring temporary power to electrical devices. Used without proper caution, they can become a fire hazard and pose a serious risk to your personal safety. A heavy reliance on extension cords is an indication that you have too few outlets to address your needs. Some important tips from Montgomery County Fire & Rescue: 

Selecting extension cords

  • Purchase only cords that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
  • For outdoor projects, use only extension cords marked for outdoor use.
  • Read the instructions for information about the cord’s correct use and the amount of power it draws when running.
  • Select cords that are rated to handle the wattage of the devices with which they’ll be used. 

Using extension cords

  • Do NOT run extension cords through walls, doorways, ceilings, or floors. If a cord is covered, heat cannot escape, which may result in a fire hazard.
  • Do NOT overload extension cords.
  • Never remove an extension cord’s grounding pin in order to fit it into a two-prong outlet.
  • Never use extension cords to power appliances. Plug appliances directly into wall outlets. 
  • Never use indoor extension cords outdoors.
  • Don't attempt to plug multiple extension cords together.
  • Don't run extension cords under rugs or furniture.
  • Never tape extension cords to floors or attach them to surfaces with staples or nails.
  • Don’t bend or coil cords when they’re in use.
  • Immediately stop using extension cords that feel hot to the touch or show signs of deterioration.

Caring for extension cords

  • Always store cords indoors.
  • Unplug extension cords when they’re not in use.
  • Throw away damaged cords.
  • Pull the plug—not the cord—when disconnecting from the outlet.
  • Consider covering unused cord receptacles with childproof covers.
Remember: extension cords are intended as temporary wiring solutions. If you find you’re using them on a permanent basis, consider updating your home’s electrical system.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Could Your Dryer Cause a Fire? Let's talk dryer fire facts.

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Over the last several weeks, MCFRS has responded to a number of clothes dryer-related fires. A lack of maintenance, buildup of lint, placing inappropriate items in the dryer and inadequate venting are frequently cited as contributing factors.
Fires can occur when lint builds up in the dryer or in the exhaust duct. Lint can block the flow of air, cause excessive heat build-up, and result in a fire in some dryers. Some important safety tips:

Clean behind the dryer, where lint can build up. Clean around your dryer to minimize the amount of lint accumulation. Keep the area around the dryer clean and free of clutter.

Don't leave a clothes dryer running if you leave the house or go to bed. 

Clean the lint screen/filter before or after drying each load of clothes. If clothing is still damp at the end of a typical drying cycle or drying requires longer times than normal, this may be a sign that the lint screen or the exhaust duct is blocked. 


Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct annually. Check the outside dryer vent while the dryer is operating to make sure exhaust air is escaping. If it is not, the vent or the exhaust duct may be blocked. To remove a blockage in the exhaust path, it may be necessary to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer. Remember to reconnect the ducting to the dryer and outside vent before using the dryer again. MCFRS recommends having a qualified service technician clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct annually.

Replace plastic or foil, accordion-type ducting material with rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct. Most manufacturers specify the use of a rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct, which provides maximum airflow. The flexible plastic or foil type duct can more easily trap lint and is more susceptible to kinks or crushing, which can greatly reduce the airflow.


Take special care when drying clothes that have been soiled with volatile chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents, or finishing oils and stains. If possible, wash the clothing more than once to minimize the amount of volatile chemicals on the clothes and, preferably, hang the clothes to dry. 

There are several warning signs that dangerous lint buildup has occurred in your dryer and venting system, indicating that it needs a thorough cleaning: 
- Clothes take longer to dry or don't dry fully
- Clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the drying cycle
- Outside of dryer gets very hot
- Outside exhaust vent flapper does not open very much, indicating       low exhaust velocity
- Laundry room becomes more humid than usual
- Burnt smell is evident in the laundry room

Maintenance Tips:
- Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on. 
- Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
- Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to inspect the dryer and the gas line connection. 
- Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Change Your Clocks - CHECK Your Smoke Alarms This Weekend

It's that time of year again when we "Spring Forward" and change clocks (unless your clocks do it automatically)! Here are our Top Eight Tips to remember when it comes to smoke alarms and fire safety this weekend:

1. It is indisputable that smoke alarms save lives. Smoke alarms are the best and least expensive way to provide an early warning system to alert you and your family to a potential fire emergency. Smoke alarms are designed to detect a fire in its early stages and alert people so they have time to safely escape.

2. Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.

3. For the best protection, smoke alarms should be interconnected. What does that mean? When one sounds they all sound alerting you to an emergency early on and giving you critical time to escape. New construction requirements have included hard- wired smoke alarms with battery back-ups since the 1980's. 

4. Nothing lasts forever - including smoke alarms. Smoke alarms become less reliable with time, primarily due to aging of their electronic components making them more susceptible to nuisance false alarms. Replace entire smoke alarm units every 10 years or sooner if they don't respond properly when tested. Why? The sensor wears out and may not activate in an emergency putting your family at risk. Always read the manufacturer’s recommendations as some models recommend replacement every 5-7 years.

5. Never (ever) paint over a smoke alarm. It will affect the operation of the smoke alarm, potentially disabling it.

6. Test your alarms once a month by pressing the test button.

7. Clean your smoke alarm once a month when you test it. Smoke alarms get clogged with dust build-up which may affect performance.

8. If your detector “chirps” it may be time to change the back-up battery in your hard-wired alarm. Since 2018, Maryland law has required all battery-only smoke alarms (permitted in homes built b/f 1975) to have a sealed,10-year long-life battery in the unit so any "chirping" in these units is likely signaling that you need to replace the smoke alarm with a new one. 
Today's home safety and security technology has evolved beyond smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Many families rely on household devices connected to the internet or smartphones to enhance safety and security. New technology can even notify you when the alarm is activated or if the battery is low. Take time this weekend to ensure your family has a fire safety plan. Practice it with a Home Fire Drill to ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Why are space heaters dangerous? What you need to know.


December through March are peak months for home fire deaths. While space heaters can be a quick way to heat up a chilly room, that warmth comes with a BIG warning label.

Each year, space heaters are involved in 79% of fatal home heating fires. As temperatures drop, here are 10 things you need to know:

  1. Give the heater some space. Keep your space heater at least THREE feet away from anything flammable. That means clothes and blankets, stacks of newspapers, furniture, rugs and even walls. Allow at least three feet of open space on each side of the unit.



  2. Never (ever) use an extension cord with a space heater. To prevent a fire, never plug a high-wattage space heater into an extension cord or multi-outlet strip.

  3. Opt for quality. When shopping for a space heater, select a unit that has all the latest safety features and the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label of approval. Look for cool-to-the-touch housings and automatic shutoff features that turn the unit off if it’s tipped over or overheating. Some units will automatically shut off if their infrared sensors detect a person or object that is too close to the heater panel—making them desirable choices for households with kids or pets.


  4. Never leave a space heater “on” in an unoccupied room. Always turn off a space heater when you leave the room and before going to bed. Throw on some extra blankets and unplug the unit as an extra precaution.

  5. Size matters. Before purchasing a space heater, check the label to see if it is the appropriate size for the area you want to heat.
  6. Make sure your house can handle it. Space heaters use a lot of electricity --- as much as fifteen 100-watt light bulbs. This can be too much for older houses with old wires and electrical circuits. When wires get overheated, fires can also start inside the walls where they are hard to spot. If the circuit breaker trips, don’t plug it back in.
  7. Keep space heaters away from water. Like any electrical device, they pose a shock hazard. To help prevent shocks, avoid using space heaters in rooms where spills and moisture build-ups are likely such at bathrooms and kitchens.
  8. Safety first. Check your heaters regularly – look for frayed wires and remove dust accumulation on grates, grills, coils and other elements of the heater.

  9. Hot, hot, hot. Some parts of the heater can become really hot. Children, seniors and pets are especially vulnerable to getting burned.




  10. Finally, don’t rely on space heaters to heat your home. They’re designed to supplement a central heating strategy – NOT replace it. Make sure every room in which you plan to use a space heater has working smoke alarms and that your house has a carbon monoxide alarm.











Sunday, February 10, 2019

Best Valentine's Gift EVER


Last minute shoppers, still looking for a  Valentine’s gift? 


Montgomery County Fire and Rescue officials are recommending smoke alarms as the perfect Valentine’s gift for loved ones. Nothing says you mean everything to me like the 24-hour protection that comes with a smoke alarm. And while you are busy planning the perfect evening, make it memorable for all the right reasons. A few tips to keep in mind:
  • Cooking up a great meal? Stand by your pan. Too many meals are ruined when cooks get distracted or forgetful and leave cooking unattended. As much as Fire/Rescue loves your cooking, you really don’t want us to have to extinguish that perfect meal. Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires so keep anything that can catch fire – potholders, paper or plastic bags, dish towels, newspapers and curtains – away from your stovetop, oven and appliances that generate heat.
  • Candles may look festive and set the mood however unattended candles account for thousands of fires annually. The National Fire Protection Association reports that, on average, a candle fire in the home is reported to a US Fire Department every 30 minutes. Consider battery-operated, flameless candles instead. You really can’t tell the difference!
  • Lighting up the fireplace? Make sure that’s all you light up. Believe it or not, every year people dispose of fireplace ashes before they have sufficiently cooled. Keep your ash out of the trash and only dispose of fireplace ashes in a sealed, metal container located far from anything combustible. Never dispose of fireplace ashes in your recycling bin, trash can, paper or plastic bags or in a garage, carport or on a deck or porch. 
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue wants you to have a great Valentine’s Day. Remember, smoke alarms save lives. They make great gifts, one-size-fits-all and MCFRS will even come out and check your alarms for free! Just call 311 or visit www.mcfrs.org/mcsafe for info.