Monday, November 29, 2010

Candles + December = TWICE the Number of Home Candle Fires

Did you know that December has almost TWICE the number of home candle fires than an average month?

The various December Holidays are fast approaching and candles are in demand. See and hear a quick presentation on Candle Safety. Do not let your Holidays go up in flames!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stand By Your Pan This Thanksgiving!

It is that time of the year again when family and friends gather to celebrate, eat, drink, and be merry. Likewise, it is also the time of year where everyone is practicing to maybe be the next Iron Chef. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking fires are more likely on Thanksgiving than any other day.

With the last sentence in mind, I would like to offer all of you out there some information that you might find useful not only for Thanksgiving this week but for all of the various holidays and observances over the next several weeks.

“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 Bowers. “Unattending 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 Fires Life-Saving Tips:

• Be alert! Always keep your eyes on what’s cooking.

• If a fire breaks out while cooking, put a lid on the pan to smother it. Never throw water on a
grease fire.

• Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease buildup which can ignite.

• Always wear short, tight-fitting sleeves when cooking.

• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.

• If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly. Remain in the kitchen while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.

• Keep anything that can catch fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stovetop.

• Double-check the kitchen before you go to bed or leave the house. Make sure all other appliances are turned off.

• Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test the batteries every month and change the batteries annually.

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 officals urge residents to follow all manufacturer directions closely and to review the following safety tips:

Safety Tips:

· Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil within the cooking pot.

· A small amount of cooking oil coming into contact with the burner can cause a large fire.

· Fryers should always be used outdoors, on a solid level surface a safe distance from buildings and flammable materials.

· Never use a fryer on a wooden deck, under a patio cover, in a garage or enclosed space.

· Do not overfill the fryer.

· If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner/flames causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.

· Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This too, may result in an extensive fire.

· With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion. Never leave the tryer unattended.

· The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.

· Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use or after use as the oil can remain hot for hours.

· Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before it is placed in a fryer.

Following these simple fire safety tips can boost survival rates and reduce injuries dramatically.  For more information about the department’s fire safety programs or to request a free home safety evaluation or smoke alarm check, please contact the County’s non-emergency call center at 311.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Recalls

Several recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that I thought might be of interest. Normally, I just “tweet” these out through Twitter and Facebook but the large number of recalls made me think it best to place all here in one spot.

So, please take a moment to review the below:

Stainless Steel Carafes Recalled by J & H International Due to Burn Hazard

Robert Bosch Tool Corp. Recalls Bosch Hammer Drills Due to Electrical Shock Hazard

Metallic Taper Candles Sold Exclusively at Yankee Candle Stores Recalled by General Wax & Candle Company Due to Fire Hazard

Meijer Recalls Oscillating Ceramic Heaters Due to Fire Hazard

If you are traveling today at some point PLEASE be SAFE out there!

Happy and Safe Holidays,


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

News Advisory: Keep Your Family Safe this Thanksgiving

Below, please find an informative News Advisory from MCFRS as well as a video on the dangers of Turkey Fryers from Underwriters Laboratories.

Advisory Thanksgiving 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Videos and Photos From Friday’s “Toys for Tots” Press Event

Below, please find a Flickr photo album as well as two videos from Friday’s “Toys for Tots” Press Event.

Click on Above Photo to Access MCFRS Flickr Slideshow

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NEWS ADVISORY: Community Emergency Response Team Takes Training on the Road

MC CERT team with Montouis Haiti 'Lifesavers' June 2010.
CERT Program Manager Greg St. James in middle with Hawaiian shirt.
Montgomery County Fire Chief Richard Bowers announced the results of the County’s Community Emergency Response Team’s (CERT) training mission to Montrouis, Haiti. A team of three CERT volunteers, led by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service CERT Program Manager Greg St. James, traveled to Haiti in June 2010 to conduct training in community-based disaster preparedness and response. Using modified lessons based on FEMA’s CERT curriculum, a train-the-trainer model was developed to meet the needs of Haiti’s population. The mission was funded by individual donations and a grant from the Rockville Rotary Club.

The Montgomery County trainers instructed a 'sister' team of 25 Haitian residents in the seaside town of Montrouis in first aid, basic search and rescue strategies and swift water rescue techniques using 'low tech' or minimal equipment. Since June, the Montrouis team (known as “Sove La Vie” or Lifesavers) has responded to severe flooding in July and the most recent Hurricane. The CERT “Lifesavers” team safely evacuated over 350 people from rising water, including several who had suffered serious injuries requiring additional medical treatment.

CERT Medic David Smith instructs Haitian team in June 2010

"CERT plays an important role in the recovery of communities in times of crisis and we are fortunate to be able to take our training on the road and help communities in Haiti to be safer and stronger in the future,” said Chief Bowers. “This training is an example of the value of community-based disaster readiness and response by ordinary citizens, both in Haiti and here in Montgomery County." said Chief Bowers. "The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service has made a multi-year commitment to training residents and enhancing neighborhood readiness with CERT teams. This is an important part of our public safety mission and the success in Haiti demonstrates its value. I offer my sincere congratulations to the Montrouis Lifesavers for a job well done!"

The Montgomery County CERT program is comprised of over 250 volunteers and offers frequent training classes in disaster readiness, CPR, fire safety and first aid free of charge to county residents. The next CERT class is set for January 2011. To learn more visit, or contact Greg St. James at 240-777-2407.

# # #

MCFRS Promotions

Over the last couple of months MCFRS has seen a large number of promotions in the department. These folks have put in a lot of hard work to realize their dreams of becoming leaders in one of the best fire and rescue departments in the country.

My hats off and congratulations to all of the below. Lead well and be SAFE!

Bill D

The following personnel have been promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief:

o Stephen R. Jones

The following personnel have been promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief:

o Michael D. Hanson

The following personnel have been promoted to the rank of Captain:

o Brent D. Hopkins
o Frantz P. Pinthiere

o Ross A. Cook

o Justin S. Meyer

o Michael T. Barber

o Brett G. Livingston

o Christopher S. Crittenden

o Kirk R. Wims

o Marc W. Worton

o Paul W. Lancaster

o Robert I. Ford

The following personnel have been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant:

o David E. Anderson

o David S. Gooding

o Ratana (Rick) Koung

o Richard L. Morrissey

o Thomas P. Cummins

o Gary P. Cummings

o Geoffrey M. Blain

o Richard A. Triplett

The following personnel have been promoted to the rank of Master Firefighter:

o April L. Evans

o James A. Gaines

o Jason R. Light

o Noel P. Hull

o Scott A. Ward

o Scott L. Bragunier

o Steven M. Dodson

o Anthony (Jake) E. Hoover

o Larry E. Curry

o Seth F. Miller

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Keeping the Community Safe One Home at a Time

As many of you are aware, each Saturday the women and men of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue go door to door in their various communities handing out fire safety tips as well as offering to check smoke alarms to ensure they are working. Having working smoke alarms in your home/apartment can help you and your loved ones escape a deadly home fire by providing a vital early warning.

If during the check we find a smoke alarm is not functioning, we take immediate steps to correct this life safety issue by installing a new battery and/or smoke alarm.
The door to door program was initiated by Fire Chief Richard Bowers two years ago after a tragic year in which we lost 13 of our fellow residents in home/apartment fires. That, sadly, was our largest one year loss of life in over 30 years! In many instances there were no working smoke alarms in the home/apartment.

Below, you will find the number of homes we visited during September and October as well as the totals for the last two years. Pretty impressive!

Homes Visited: 492
Smoke Alarms Installed: 18
Batteries Installed: 11

Homes Visited: 734
Smoke Alarms Installed: 34
Batteries Installed: 40

Grand Totals since program implementation:

Homes Visited: 37,653
Smoke Alarms Installed: 1,158
Batteries Installed: 1,307

Monday, November 8, 2010

And the Survey Says?!

As I am positive all of you are aware, this past weekend we not only moved our clocks back one hour but ALL of us also checked to make sure our smoke alarms were working!

Hopefully you, your family and friends took a few minutes at some point over the weekend to perform this vital life safety check. This led me to wonder: how many of you out there did take the opportunity to check your alarms? In addition, how many of you discovered that one or more alarms were not working and took steps to correct that?

Toward that end, I have placed a very quick survey on the right side bar of the blog to perhaps answer my questions above. Please take a moment to click the answer that relates to your experience.

Also, if you found your alarms were not working and you were unable to fix the issue, please contact MC311 and request help. Our fire and rescue personnel will be more than happy to drop by and help you out. In addition, we provide free batteries and alarms to those who need them but can not afford them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Smoke Alarm Donation: Story, Video, Photos, and Quotes From Today’s Press Conference

Today I had the distinct pleasure of attending a Press Conference, at our brand new Fire Station #34, at which Fire Chief Richard Bowers accepted a donation of two-thousand  smoke alarms from one of our partners in safety – PEPCOAlso donated were special needs smoke alarms for those residents who are deaf or hard of hearing.  

I have posted a video below of the Chief and the Fire Fighters of Fire Station #34 accepting this generous donation from PEPCO representatives Ms. Kim Watson and Mr. Pete Pedersen.  Below the video you will also find quotes.

These alarms will be critical in our on going “Safety in Our Neighborhood” door-to-door safety and injury prevention campaign. Every Saturday MCFRS Fire Fighters canvas neighborhoods handing out safety information as well as offering to check smoke alarms to ensure they are working. If we find the alarms are not working, we will then install a fresh battery or new alarm before leaving as working smoke alarms nearly cut in half the risk of dying in a home fire.


Link to Video if above does not work:
From Chief Richard Bowers:
“Pepco’s Emergency Services Partnership Program has donated smoke alarms to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service for several years as part of their long-standing commitment to public safety.” “Based on today’s challenging budgets, this donation comes at a critical time and will fill an important need.”

“We are proud to partner with PEPCO and their generous donation will continue to have significant impact in keeping residents safe and saving lives.”

From Kim Watson, PEPCO VP of Governmental Affairs:
“All of us at Pepco are very proud of the excellent working relationship we have with our first responders throughout the service territory. These smoke alarms are just another way for Pepco to support the life saving work that the dedicated men and women of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service perform everyday.”

Media Advisory: PEPCO Donates Smoke Alarms to Fire Department

Friday, November 5, 2010

10:30 a.m.
Fire Station 34
20633 Boland Farm Drive
Germantown, MD

Montgomery County Fire Chief Richard Bowers will accept a generous donation of smoke alarms from PEPCO officials on Friday, November 5th. The smoke alarms will be used in conjunction with the fire department’s “Safety in Our Neighborhood” door-to-door safety and injury prevention campaign.

“PEPCO’s Emergency Services Partnership Program has donated smoke alarms to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service for several years as part of their long-standing commitment to public safety,” said Chief Richard Bowers. “Based on today’s challenging budgets, this donation comes at a critical time and will fill an important need.”

“All of us at Pepco are very proud of the excellent working relationship we have with our first responders throughout the service territory. These smoke alarms are just another way for Pepco to support the life saving work that the dedicated men and women of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service perform everyday,” said Kim Watson.

As residents prepare to change their clocks this weekend, firefighters are reminding residents to check their smoke alarms and install new batteries. With cold weather arriving, working smoke alarms provide vital, early warning of a fire and are truly life-saving. “We are proud to partner with PEPCO and their generous donation will continue to have significant impact in keeping residents safe and saving lives,” said Chief Bowers.

# # #

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Put A Finger On It! Time to Check Your Smoke Alarms

Checking your smoke alarms and batteries twice a year to ensure that they are working is one of the simplest, most effective ways to reduce tragic deaths and injuries from fire. In fact, working smoke alarms nearly cut in half the risk of dying in a home fire.

The men and women of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) urge ALL residents to check home smoke alarms on a regular basis. Fire Fighters will be out in the community on Saturday offering to check your home smoke alarms to ensure they are working.

“Put a Finger on It!” Fire Chief Richard Bowers recommends that all residents adopt a lifesaving habit by checking your home’s smoke alarms and batteries when changing clocks twice a year. Protect your family in the event of a home fire – change the battery if it is dead or at least yearly!

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service recommend that homeowners follow these tips to help prevent fires, deaths, and injuries:

* Install and maintain smoke alarms on every level of the home

* If your smoke alarm is older than 10 years, it needs to be replaced

* Properly dispose of all smoking materials

* Maintain and properly use gas and electrical appliances.

* Never leave food cooking unattended; turn off the burner if you leave.

* Keep matches and lighters away from children.

* Never leave candles burning unattended.

* Develop and practice a fire escape plan.

Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as two minutes to escape safely. Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning—a home fire escape plan that everyone in your family is familiar with and has practiced.

Remember, when you change your clock, check your smoke alarms and batteries – put a finger on it!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Montgomery County volunteers Stepping Forward to Join Career Firefighters and Paramedics in Supporting the County’s Ambulance Reimbursement Program

Fire Chief Richard Bowers (at podium) joined volunteer and career firefighters, who spoke out in favor of Bill 13-10, Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee.  Montgomery County voters will decide on November 2 whether to approve County Question A, which will allow the bill to become law.
Many Montgomery County volunteers are stepping forward to join Career Firefighters and Paramedics in supporting the County’s Ambulance Reimbursement program. Some volunteer stations, including Silver Spring and Takoma Park, voted to remain neutral on the ballot question.

Why Ambulance Billing Makes Sense for Montgomery County
– A Volunteer Paramedic’s Perspective

by Erik S. Gaull

When residents of Montgomery County go to the polls on November 2nd, they will be presented with County Question A, a ballot initiative on whether to allow the County to recover costs from insurers for ambulance transport. There is a lot of misinformation floating around about so-called “ambulance fees.”

As a volunteer paramedic/firefighter in Montgomery County since 1986, I feel it is important that Montgomery County voters understand that many fire-rescue volunteers support the proposed emergency medical services (EMS) transport fee. But I don’t just speak as first responder. Since 1993, I have earned a living as a consultant to fire and EMS agencies across the nation, helping them to provide top-flight service to their communities during times of shrinking budgets. Moreover, I teach EMS management at the National Fire Academy. I have a considerable base of national experience from which to draw my observations about the transport fee.

Many of the volunteer fire departments in the County are staunchly against transport fees, a position I believe is short-sighted and based on some bad misconceptions. Such fees are more than just a good idea – they’re an essential means to preserve high-quality EMS in Montgomery County.

Simply put, without ambulance billing, Montgomery County is leaving millions of dollars in revenue in the corporate coffers of insurance companies. This is money that is urgently needed right now, as the County is facing unprecedented budget shortfalls and the real possibility of implementing fire-rescue service cut-backs. The County Council did the fiscally responsible thing in adopting ambulance billing, moving Montgomery County in line with almost every other jurisdiction in the National Capital Region. This action is long overdue.

Here are the chief arguments advanced by those against the fee and why those arguments are incorrect:

Assertion: Tax dollars already pay for EMS; therefore users of the system should not be expected to pay for the service.

Fact: Taxes support the overall operation and readiness of the EMS system (i.e., equipment, infrastructure, dispatching, training, etc.) but the County’s Fire Tax doesn’t cover all the costs at the present – and will cover fewer in the future. The transport fee will be paid by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance – not by County residents, and co-pays will not be required from County residents. In other words, the County will only be seeking payment from insurance companies – not individuals.

Assertion: Premiums will rise if insurance companies have to pay ambulance bills.

Fact: Insurance premiums anticipate the projected use of ambulance service by an insured party. In other words, County residents presently pay premiums which assume that the insurance company will need to pay for an ambulance transport. When someone uses a “free” (i.e., non-billing) ambulance service, the insurance company pockets the money it has already calculated it will need to lay out on behalf of its insured population. Insurance premiums won’t rise because the insurance companies are already expecting to pay out that money.

Assertion: Ambulance fees will deter people from calling EMS in an emergency.

Fact: There is no evidence to support the notion that people will be less likely to call for an ambulance because a jurisdiction imposes an ambulance fee. In fact, according to the billing records of Intermedix, the largest ambulance service billing company in the nation, jurisdictions which have recently implemented ambulance fees have not seen a decrease in the number of transports.

So, the arguments against an ambulance fee don’t really hold water, but the arguments for the fee are strong:

First, the County needs the money. The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service has already undergone some service cutbacks, and more are on the table in order to close budget gaps.

Second, the fee will be paid by users’ health insurance, and the County has carefully crafted mechanisms for non-County uninsured, low-income users to request a fee waiver. Insurers of non-residents will receive a bill, meaning Montgomery County taxpayers will not be subsidizing ambulance service for people who do not pay taxes in the County.

The bottom line is this: A vote FOR Question A is a vote to preserve and strengthen fire-rescue service levels. A vote against Question A is essentially a vote to CUT BACK fire-rescue service, while leaving County taxpayers to foot the bill and letting insurance companies keep premiums already paid.

The author is a Nationally Registered Paramedic and has been a volunteer paramedic/firefighter in Montgomery County since 1986. He has been a consultant to fire and EMS agencies across the United States since 1993, teaches EMS management at the National Fire Academy, and sits on the Editorial Review Board of two EMS-related publications.

* * *

Ambulance Reimbursement from a Volunteer Paramedic’s perspective

By Pamela Boe

I am Pamela Boe, and I am a paramedic associated with the Upper Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department, who wishes to clarify some misinformation being spread about Question A, the Ambulance Reimbursement ballot measure.

The Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (MCVFRA) did, in fact, vote to fight the implementation of the law that allows the County to seek reimbursement from insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid for ambulance transports, but that decision by the MCVFRA won only by a slight margin.

As it is, many of the volunteers I work with do not agree with the Association’s stance against ambulance billing, yet we have no voice within that Association as individuals. We have watched helplessly as the Volunteer Association has manufactured facts, misquoted figures, manipulated words and spread fear among the general populace about future fees, hard billing, or where the money is going.

A primary reason the Volunteer Association does not wish to see this pass is because they fear it would result in fewer donations to the individual Volunteer Fire Departments by the community. They fear the community would think, “Why would I donate when the insurance company is already paying?” The answer is that the insurance company won’t pay for all of it. Furthermore, dear taxpayer, you are already paying for it in both your insurance AND your taxes. How does that make sense?

If this law gets repealed, and the ambulance reimbursement requests do not go to insurance companies, there are going to be fewer ambulances and medic units available. The loss of $14 million dollars in an already VERY tight budget will result in the loss of career firefighters and therefore the loss of emergency services.

The volunteers will not be able to pick up the slack. In other words, folks, we NEED that money.

I am not a registered Republican, but I DO believe in smaller government, and I would rather see any money that is reimbursed by the insurance companies returned to the tax payers. It is a shame that the vote didn’t go that direction when the issue of reimbursement originally came up. But, the law was passed, and the resulting income was counted on in this year’s budget. The horses are already out of the barn. Returning them would cost the county $14 million. That means it would cost YOU AND ME $14 Million, either in the form of money or services. It has got to come from somewhere…its either going to come from a tax hike, new County-imposed fees elsewhere, or cuts in services.

Understand this: If you vote “no” on the Ambulance reimbursement, it will translate to you, the county taxpayer, as longer response times during an emergency because there will be fewer units and fewer personnel out there to respond -- OR it will translate to you in the form of higher taxes and fees -- OR BOTH. Every Department in the county could be at risk in this cut.

I am voting YES on Question A to keep the law that allows reimbursement for County ambulance services, and I am a County Volunteer Medic, and I see first-hand why this county needs it.

Ambulance Reimbursement Video Update