Tuesday, June 20, 2023

What You Need to Know About FIREWORKS

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Montgomery County Fire and Rescue wants to remind residents that ALL fireworks are illegal in Montgomery County. What you need to know:

The Law:
It is illegal for any person to manufacture, possess, store, offer for sale, sell, discharge, use, burn or explode any fireworks in Montgomery County, Maryland, except that an authorized display may be conducted by a licensed pyrotechnic professional with a permit. Penalties for violations of the law include a fine up to $1,000 and/or six months in jail. All fireworks are illegal in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and the City of Baltimore. Montgomery County Fire Safety Code: Section 22-70: Fireworks.

What fireworks are legal?
In Montgomery County, ALL fireworks are illegal to possess or discharge including gold label sparklers. Snap-and-pop noise makers, snakes and party poppers are the only exception to this law.

Can I receive fireworks at my home through the mail?
No. Use of the mail for the transportation of fireworks for use in the State of Maryland is illegal.

Can I have a private fireworks display at my residence with proper permits?
No. You can not have a private display; however, you can apply to have a public display with proper permits and insurance.

Can I receive fireworks at my residence delivered by a public carrier?
No. It doesn't matter where the fireworks are purchased or how they are brought into Maryland.  Fireworks are still illegal in Montgomery County.

Where do I report violations involving fireworks?
Residents should call 301-279-8000. Do NOT call 911 unless you have a life-threatening emergency and need immediate help. Non-emergency 911 calls can delay getting assistance to people with actual emergencies.

Where can I go to see the fireworks on July 4th?
Public fireworks displays, conducted by trained professionals, are the smartest and safest way to view fireworks because they are established under controlled settings and safety regulations and monitored by public safety organizations.  

How many fires are caused by fireworks? 
Fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires in 2018. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires in 2018, including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires, and 17,100 outside and other fires.

Grill Like a Pro!

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Six Major Grilling Mistakes You Might Be Making

It happens every year. The weather gets warmer, more people use outdoor grills – and incidents of grill-related fires go up. With Memorial Day approaching, Fire Chief Goldstein is reminding residents to review these important safety tips before lighting up the grill this season.

Mistake #1: Not Keeping Your Grill Clean
If you haven’t used your grill in a while, give it a good cleaning. Did you know that grease is a major source of flare ups? If you allow grease and fat to build up on your grill, they provide more fuel for a fire. Regularly remove grease and fat buildup from the grill grates and drip trays.

Mistake #2: Not Giving the Grill Enough Space
Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your house. Farther away is even better. While you may to want to stand in the shade while you’re grilling, having an awning, umbrella or tree branch too close to the grill can be dangerous and could easily spark a fire. Your grill—whether it’s charcoal or gas—should be at least 10 feet away from your home or garage, deck railings and other structures.

Mistake #3: Leaving a Lit Grill Unattended 
Never leave a lit grill unattended – not even for a minute. Fires double in size every minute. Plan ahead so that any food prep chores are done and you can focus on grilling. Never try to move a lit or hot grill and remember the grill will stay hot for at least an hour after use. Supervise kids and pets when a grill is in use and have a “10 foot” kid free zone near the grill.

Mistake #4: Garages and Grills Don’t Mix 
Charcoal and gas grills are designed for outdoor use only. It’s a common mistake to think it’s safe to use a grill, particularly a small one, in your house or garage. Never do this. In addition to being a major fire hazard, grills release carbon monoxide — a  colorless, odorless gas -- that can be deadly. Keep your charcoal and gas grills outside!

Mistake #5: Starting a Gas Grill with the Lid Closed
Lighting your grill with a closed lid can cause a dangerous buildup of gas, creating a fireball. Keep your gas grill lid open when lighting it. If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off, and wait at least five minutes before relighting. Charcoal grill owners: dousing lit coals with extra lighter fluid is another big mistake and doing so can easily cause a flare-up.

Mistake #6: Not Shutting Down the Grill
Don’t get distracted and forget to properly turn off your grill! As soon as you’re done cooking, turn off the burners and the fuel supply for gas grills. If you’re using charcoal, let the coals completely cool before safely disposing in a metal container.

Be sure to:


Check for propane leaks on your gas grill
Before the season’s first barbecue, check the gas tank hose for leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose and then turning on the gas. If there is a propane leak, the solution will bubble. Other signs of a propane leak include the smell of gas near the barbecue or a flame that won’t light. Consult your owner’s manual.

If the flame goes out, wait to re-light
If you are using a gas grill and the flame goes out, turn the grill and the gas off, then wait at least five minutes to re-light it.

Be careful with charcoal starter fluid
If you use a charcoal grill, only use charcoal starter fluid. If the fire starts to go out, don’t add any starter fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.

Make sure your grill is stable
Position your grill in a well-ventilated, flat and level surface away from your house, overhangs, deck railings. Make sure the grill can’t be tipped over.

Wear the right clothing
Clothing can easily catch fire, so be sure your shirt tails, sleeves, or apron strings don’t dangle over the grill.

Links to Code Requirements:
Outdoor Cooking and Recreational Fires near Multi-Family Buildings:

Use of Fire Pits, Fire Bowls & Chimineas:

Friday, May 26, 2023

DROWNING: It Can Happen in an Instant

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Five words that save lives --- All Eyes On The Pool! MCFRS officials are urging residents to diligently supervise children when around any water sources. Whether you’re a seasoned swimmer or just learning how to swim, many water-related injuries and tragedies can be avoided by constant supervision by adults. DYK that drowning is the leading killer of children between the ages of 1 -  4 years? The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service kicks off our 2023 Summer of Safety Campaign with one of the most important topics of summer: Water Safety. 

Be attentive.  Research from the National Safe Kid Campaign shows that nearly 9 out of 10 children between the ages of 1 and 14 who drowned were under supervision when they died. How is this possible? Distractions – cell phones, ipads, reading materials, chores and socializing needs to be resisted when YOU are on “lifeguard duty” watching your child. Be engaged and committed to watching them constantly. The study defined supervision as being in someone’s care, not necessarily in direct line of sight.

Learn to swim and never swim alone. One of the best things you can do to stay safe around the water is to learn to swim and to always swim with a buddy. Make sure they know how to tread water, float on their backs and get to the edge of the pool and hang on. Even the most experienced swimmers can become tired or get muscle cramps which might make it difficult to get out of the water safely.  

Teaching your child how to swim does not mean that your child is “drown-proof.” If you have a pool or are visiting a pool, protect your children by supervising them at all times and being prepared in case of an emergency. Consider designating a adult “water watcher” when children are participating in water activities.

Seconds count when it comes to water emergencies. Keep a phone (cell or cordless) by the pool or nearby when engaged in recreational water activities so that you can call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Learn life-saving skills. Know how to prevent, recognize and respond to emergencies. In the time it might take paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in saving someone’s life.

Avoid relying on inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties” and “noodles” to keep your child safe. These toys are not designed to keep your child safe, can deflate or shift quickly and should never be used as a substitute for supervision. Use only Coast Guard approved flotation devices that fits your swimmer properly.

Lifeguards are an important safety feature but are NOT intended to replace the close supervision of parents or caregivers. Remember, lifeguards are not babysitters.

Maintain constant supervision of children around water (bathtubs, pools, ornamental backyard ponds, etc.). Never leave a child unattended in the water or pool area. Don't be distracted by phone calls, chores or conversations. If you leave the pool area, take the child with you. Remember: swim lessons are no substitute for the supervision of children. Formal swimming lessons can help protect young swimmers around the water however constant adult supervision is critical. 

Diving dangers. Diving injuries can cause permanent spinal damage, injuries and even death. Protect yourself by diving only in designated areas that are known to be safe, such as the deep end, of a supervised pool. 

Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather. 

Know Your Limits. Watch for the “dangerous too’s” . . . too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity. 

Water and alcohol don’t mix. Each year, up to half of all adult drownings are linked to alcohol use. Never swim impaired. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Potomac River: What You Know Could Save Your Life

Fire Chief's annual Potomac River Safety Campaign kicks off this Memorial Day and MCFRS is asking residents to observe the warnings, come prepared, and be safe. Lots to learn from Captain Bell with the MCFRS Water Rescue Team: 

"The Potomac is very deceptive, it has some spots that look very calm, very tranquil, look very easy to swim in. But, because the river is a very high-volume flowing river there is a very strong undercurrent with lots of rocks, lots of unseen obstacles and the water is never clear, so you can never see what you’re getting into. These dynamics are especially pronounced in the area of the river called the Potomac Gorge. It is a turbulent zone where water comes into conflict with geology. This stutter-step in the earth’s crust makes Great Falls a beautiful spot, it also makes it dangerous." 

Important to keep in mind that the falls are only a piece of a complicated section of river spanning about seven miles. Uprooted trees, debris, hidden boulders, and other hazards create a situation so dangerous for swimming that wading and swimming are illegal in many places.

The river is moving fast and there are a lot of hazards that you can get pinned up against, get your feet trapped in,” says Bell. “And the trees, they create what we call a strainer effect where, if you get swept into them, you can very easily get caught and trapped by your body.” Even wading into the river can lead to a dangerous situation. Mud and silt and pollutants make it impossible to see more than a few inches below the water’s surface. The river’s bottom is too often underestimated. 

“I feel like I’m safe because I have my footing and I step into an eddy or something and I’m relatively safe there, but then as soon as I take one step to the rear of where I’m at it’ll drop from a four to five foot to a 20 to 30-foot drop. And as soon as you lose that, you run that panic sensation and you can very easily drown.”

Bell and his team are well-trained, with plenty of experience. Even so, he says it’s tough to rescue someone once they are already in the river’s grasp.

“Usually we’re out of the firehouse within a matter of a minute, and then we have to go down there and it’s going to be five to ten minutes to get to the river’s edge to put the boat in. And then it’s going to depend on where in the river from where we launch as to how long it takes us.”

Too often by the time swimmers realize they are in trouble, it’s too late. Captain Bell notes that it can take up to 20 minutes just to reach the scene. “A swimmer could very much be in a fight for their life prior to us arriving, and have lost that fight.” MCFRS is asking anyone who is visiting the Potomac River to be aware of the dangers and respect the river. (From an awesome interview w/ Bureau Chief Kris Ankarlo WNEW)

Why People Drown at Great Falls

National Park Service - Plan Your Visit

Billie Goat Trail Information - Preview Conditions & Check out the Safety Video

The Billy Goat Trail, especially section A, is challenging and dangerous. A sign in early parts of the trail says:
“Difficult Trail Ahead. Many hikers are injured every year on this section of the Billy Goat A trail. The terrain includes sharp drops, requires jumps across open areas, walking along the edges of rocks, and a climb up a 50-foot-traverse. Beyond this point, the next available exit is at the midpoint, up to an hour's hike over difficult terrain. If you are tired, low on water, or unprepared for a very strenuous hike, please turn back.” The bottom line, it's not a place for rookies. Be safe and please mind the warnings, friends! 

Monday, March 6, 2023

Spring forward time!

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 ~ Beth Anne Nesselt, Manager, Community Risk Reduction Section


Don’t forget to test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms this weekend

It's that time of year again when we "Spring Forward" and change clocks (unless your clocks do it automatically) and check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms! 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 mid-70'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. DIY projects? Never (ever) paint over a smoke alarm. It will affect the operation of the smoke alarm, potentially disabling it.

6. Test your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarms once a month by pressing the test button.

7. Clean your smoke alarms monthly when you test them. Smoke alarms get clogged with dust build-up which may affect performance.

8. If your smoke alarm “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 (typically found in homes built before 1975 that have never pulled a building permit) to have a sealed,10-year long-life battery in the unit. Any "chirping" in these units is likely signaling that you need to replace the entire 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 and you have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with the newest technology. And practice it with a Home Fire Drill to ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency. It could just save your life.