Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Winter Car Seat Safety Tips

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Wearing bulky clothes or winter coats can prevent a snug fit of the harness. You might think your child is securely snug in the seat when in fact the harness is not tight because there is so much air in the jacket. As a general rule, bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat. 

In a car crash, fluffy padding immediately flattens out from the force, leaving extra space under the harness. A child can then slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.

These tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) will help parents strike that perfect balance between keeping little ones warm as well as safely buckled in their car seats.

How to Keep Your Child Warm and Safe in the Car Seat:
(Note: The tips below are appropriate for all ages.)

  • Store the carrier portion of infant seats inside the house when not in use. Keeping the seat at room temperature will reduce the loss of the child's body heat in the car.
  • Dress your child in thin layers. Start with close-fitting layers on the bottom, like tights, leggings, and long-sleeved bodysuits. Then add pants and a warmer top, like a sweater or thermal-knit shirt. Your child can wear a thin fleece jacket over the top. In very cold weather, long underwear is also a warm and safe layering option. As a general rule of thumb, infants should wear one more layer than adults. If you have a hat and a coat on, your infant will probably need a hat, coat, and blanket.
  • Don't forget hats, mittens, and socks or booties. These help keep kids warm without interfering with car seat straps. If your child is a thumb sucker, consider half-gloves with open fingers or keep an extra pair or two of mittens handy — once they get wet, they'll make your child colder rather than warmer.
  • Tighten the straps of the car seat harness. Even if your child looks snuggly bundled up in the car seat, multiple layers may make it difficult to tighten the harness enough. If you can pinch the straps of the car seat harness, then it needs to be tightened to fit snugly against your child's chest.  
  • Use a coat or blanket over the straps. You can add a blanket over the top of the harness straps or put your child's winter coat on backwards (over the buckled harness straps) after he or she is buckled up. Keep in mind that the top layer should be removable, so your baby doesn't get too hot after the car warms up.
  • Use a car seat cover ONLY if it does not have a layer under the baby. Nothing should ever go underneath your child's body or between her body and the harness straps. Be sure to leave baby's face uncovered to avoid trapped air and re-breathing. Many retailers carry car seat bundling products that are not safe to use in a car seat. Just because it's on the shelf at the store does not mean it is safe!
  • Remember, if the item did not come with the car seat, it has not been crash-tested and may interfere with the protection provided in a crash. Never use sleeping bag inserts or other stroller accessories in the car seat.
  • Pack an emergency bag for your car. Keep extra blankets, dry clothing, hats and gloves, and non-perishable snacks in your car in case of an on-road emergency or your child gets wet on a winter outing.

To schedule a video car seat assistance appointment and to view a list of car seat resources, visit us online at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcsafe or



Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Tis the season to be … SAFE! Deck the Halls with Safety

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In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it may be tempting to take a few short cuts. Fire Chief Scott Goldstein asks that you make sure that safety isn’t one of them!   

Christmas trees require special attention. When selecting a tree, freshness is important. Check the needles to make sure they are green and difficult to pull back from the branches. If the tree has been freshly cut, the needles should not break. Tap the tree on the ground several times and notice if any needles fall off. If they do, the tree is probably dried out and could be a fire hazard.  Water your tree daily and do not place the tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace, radiator, space heater or heat vent. Make sure your tree is in a sturdy holder and can't be knocked over by pets or children.

Using extension cords? Overloaded extension cords and outlets can present a serious fire safety hazard. Make sure that the extension cord is suitable for the electrical “load” needed. Do not place cords under furniture or rugs and never plug two extension cords together to increase the total length. Demanding too much power from an extension cord risks overheating and fire. Be sure to read all packaging and instructions carefully when purchasing an extension cord and ensure it is UL listed.

Holiday lights. Indoors or out, only use lights that have been tested by an approved testing laboratory for safety such as UL. All lights should be inspected for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets or excessive wear before plugging them in and discard any damaged sets of lights. Avoid stringing more than three light 
strands together.

Firing up the fireplace?  Cool your ashes! Every year “cold” ashes result in house fires. Treat all ashes and coals as HOT ashes, even when you think they have had enough time to cool. Your garage, house or deck are unsafe locations for ashes to cool and have been the site of many recent and devastating fires both locally and nationally. Take extreme care when disposing ashes and follow these tips: 
  • Allow all ashes to cool in place for several days, when possible.
  • When it’s time to dispose of ashes, transfer them to a metal container and wet them down. Only
    use an approved metal ash bucket that has a tight fitting metal lid.
  • Store the container outside, away from structures, decks, fences, wood piles or other combustible materials. 
  • Never use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes and don’t dispose of ashes outside on a windy day.
  • The wind can whip up what may have seemed like cool embers, making them fiery hot, and igniting nearby combustibles. 

Candle fires peak during the holiday season. Most holiday candle fires occur when people leave burning candles unattended or place candles too close to holiday decorations. Keep candles in sight, in a secure holder and on a safe surface away from children and pets. Consider using flameless, battery-operated candles making them much safer.

Give space heaters space and ensure at least a 3-foot clearance from anything that can burn. Do not overload the electrical circuit or use extension cords with space heaters. Always stay in the room while a space heater is operating and turn it off when leaving the room or going to sleep. Follow all manufacturer recommendations and make sure your space heater meets all safety standards.


Cooking is a top cause of holiday fires. Be alert, focused and stay in the kitchen when cooking. Keep things that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels away from the cooking area. Make sure kids and pets stay at least three feet away from the stove and oven, hot food, and liquids to avoid serious burns.
Disposing of your tree – never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by having the County’s recycling service pick it up on the designated day(s).

Do you hear what I hear? Having working smoke alarms DOUBLE your chances of surviving a fire however smoke alarms do not last forever. If your alarms are 10 years old or older, they need to be replaced with new alarms. Bottom line: don't wait for a fire to test your smoke alarm.


                               






Thursday, December 3, 2020

Use Space Heaters Safely

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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 space heaters 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. Plug your space heater directly into a wall outlet. Never (ever) use an extension cord or power strip with a space heater, which could overheat and cause a fire. 

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.

Monday, November 16, 2020

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 these days! Due to the pandemic many "in-person" gatherings will be taking place virtually and more kitchens (and cooks) will be in action to cook up the big feast.

“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 VIRTUAL home safety or smoke alarm check, call 311 during business hours or visit our website at www.mcfrs.org/mcsafe 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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