Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Just Say "No" to Distracted Cooking

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Thanksgiving is almost here and Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein is urging residents to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and to keep safety at the top of the "to-do” list this holiday season. Fact: More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. You've heard of distracted driving but have you heard of distracted cooking? Countless distractions can happen when cooking - - especially during the holidays.

“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, safe and "undistracted" Thanksgiving holiday."

Cooking Safety Tips:
  • Be alert! Stay in the kitchen when using the stove top 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 reduce injuries dramatically.  For more information about our fire safety programs or to request a free home safety or smoke alarm check, call 311 during business hours or visit our website at www.mcfrs.org/mcsafe 

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Time to Fall Back - Some SOUND Advice

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Fire Chief Scott Goldstein is urging all residents to check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms when they change their clocks this weekend and to also practice a home fire drill. "The busiest time for home fires is during the fall and winter months. A working smoke alarm  provides critical early warning of a fire resulting in more time to react and put a fire escape plan into action. We're asking all residents to take a few minutes to check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms this weekend and conduct a home fire drill. It could just be a life-saver." 

Two minutes? Experts say you may have less than 2 minutes to escape a fire. Did you know the peak time for home fire fatalities is between 11 pm and 6 am when most families are sleeping? Help keep your family safe by following these fire safety tips:

1. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement (finished or unfinished) and in all sleeping areas. If you have a larger home you'll want to consider adding more alarms and interconnected alarms will alert you to an emergency sooner. Be sure to check out all the "smart" features available -- alarms don't just sound the alarm, they can also alert your phone and more!   

2. Three words: Smoke Alarms Expire. Retire old smoke alarms and replace with new ones EVERY 10 years from the date of manufacture printed on the back or as recommended by the manufacturer. Be sure to follow County Code requirements for the type of smoke alarms required for your home.

3. Plan and practice home fire drills. Decide in advance who will help family members that may need assistance escaping (young children, older adults or people with disabilities) and establish an outside "meeting place" where everyone will meet.     

4. Make sure children recognize the sound of your smoke alarm and how to respond to its signal. 

5. Know your battery type. Maryland’s Smoke Alarm Law (effective 1/2018) requires battery-only smoke alarms to have sealed in, 10-year long-life batteries which last the life of the alarm. The updates to the law emphasize the use of sealed, 10-year battery-powered smoke alarms however it is important to understand that battery-only smoke alarms are only appropriate where battery-operated smoke alarms are permitted by Code (generally in homes built b/f 1975) before hard-wired smoke alarm technology was developed. Remember: it is never acceptable to remove required hard-wired smoke alarms and replace with any type of battery-only smoke alarm.   

Questions? Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is here to help! Call 311 or visit us on line to schedule your free VIRTUAL home safety check. Bookmark our website for year-round safety information and to learn more about virtual home safety checks at: mcfrs.org/mcsafe

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Do I need Carbon Monoxide Alarms? Probably!

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Carbon Monoxide Alarms are a must for homes. When seconds count, you need an alarm that notifies you of potential danger so you can quickly take action. In 2019, a new law in Montgomery County went into effect requiring many existing single-unit, two-unit and townhouse dwellings to have Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms which alert occupants to the presence of potentially deadly gas.

The Law requires all single, two-unit, and townhouse dwellings built before 2008 that have a fuel-burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage to install and maintain CO Alarms on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas. Maryland State Law has required CO Alarms in newly-constructed homes since 2008 and in all rental occupancies.

Why are Carbon Monoxide Alarms important? 

Carbon Monoxide is often called the "silent killer" because it is odorless, tasteless and invisible making this toxic gas one of the most overlooked, and potentially deadly, dangers in homes. CO Alarms monitor your home 24/7 and are designed to emit an alarm when high levels of CO are detected but before they reach life-threatening levels ... and only cost about $20.

Does the law apply to me?

Homes in Montgomery County built before 2008 that are powered by electricity and do not have a fuel-burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage are not required to install Carbon Monoxide Alarms however fire officials recommend CO Alarms in all homes.

What if my Carbon Monoxide Alarm sounds?

Immediately have everyone in the home get outdoors to fresh air and call 911 from outside the building. Because CO Alarms can detect low levels of carbon monoxide, your alarm may activate before anyone feels ill. Signs of CO poisoning don't always happen right away. CO poisoning can happen gradually over a period of days or even weeks, depending on the levels of CO in your home. Re-enter your home only after it has been deemed safe by emergency responders.

Where should Carbon Monoxide Alarms be installed?

Proper placement of CO Alarms is important and you want protection on every level of your home. For homes built before 2008, Montgomery County law requires that CO Alarms be installed:
  • On every occupiable level of the residence including basements, excluding attics and crawl spaces.
  • Outside sleeping areas.
For homes built after January 1, 2008 CO Alarms should be installed in accordance with the applicable building codes at the time of construction or alteration/modification. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing CO Alarms.

What type of Carbon Monoxide Alarms are available?

There are a wide variety of CO Alarms on the market and include battery-powered, plug-in and hard-wired CO Alarms and meet the requirements of the new law. Some newer alarms feature visual and verbal cues, instructions on what to do if the alarm activates and can be set to English or Spanish alerts.

What about Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms?

For years Smoke Alarms and CO Alarms were separate units. Recently, alarms have been manufactured that have the technology to detect both smoke and carbon monoxide. These "combination alarms" need to match the power source for the home's smoke alarms.

Are battery operated or hard wired Carbon Monoxide Alarms required by the new law?

For properties built before 2008, the power source for your CO Alarms can be battery operated, hard wired with a battery back-up or plug-in with a battery back-up. For combination Smoke and CO Alarms, the power supply must match the existing Code requirements for your home's smoke alarms.

At what height should Carbon Monoxide Alarms be installed?

Unlike smoke which rises to the ceiling, CO mixes with air. CO Alarms may be installed at any height. However, if a combination smoke/CO alarm is used it must be installed on or near the ceiling, per manufacturer’s instructions, to ensure that it can detect smoke effectively.

What are the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, upset stomach, chest pain and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” Knowing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can help you respond quickly in the event of an emergency.

What do the different beeps mean?

A CO Alarm has different beep patterns to communicate whether there is an emergency or simply a service or maintenance issue. It is important to know the difference between the different beep patterns. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and information is often printed on the back of the alarm.

When should Carbon Monoxide Alarms be replaced?

Replace CO Alarms when the manufacturer’s replacement date is reached when the alarm fails to respond to an operability test, or the end-of-life signal is active. CO Alarms typically have a service life of 7 – 10 years.

Where can I get Carbon Monoxide Alarms?

CO Alarms are available for purchase at many stores and online. Only purchase alarms that are approved by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) in order to ensure that your alarms meet their strict testing and safety requirements. If you need assistance and live in Montgomery County, call 311 and a department representative will be in touch. 

Friday, October 21, 2022

Countdown to Halloween

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Tips for a Safe and Fun Night

According to the National Safety Council, Halloween is the day when children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed than on any other day. With Halloween quickly approaching, Fire Chief Scott Goldstein and the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service offers some important tips for a safe Halloween.

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 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.

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.

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.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

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 2022 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.