Baltimore County Now
Donald Brand, P.E., Building Engineer
Baltimore County Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections
6. LOCATE GAS SHUT-OFF VALVES ON GAS APPLIANCES. The gas company adds a distinctive smell to gas so it can be detected immediately when there is a gas leak. If you detect a distinctive garlic or sulfur like smell, open a window and leave the dwelling immediately leaving the door open as you leave to help ventilate the space. Telephone 911 and your gas supplier to report the gas leak from outside the building or from your neighbor’s house. Do not re-enter your dwelling until Fire Department personnel say it is safe to return.
7. ROUTINELY INSPECT PLUMBING AND FIXTURES. Make sure the shut-off valves on toilets and sinks turn easily and are not rusted shut. If they are corroded, replace them. If a faucet is leaking, replace the washer and remember to take the faucet, washer or stem along to the hardware store to insure the replacement part matches the original. Also, know how to find your water main shut off valve. If in doubt, contact a Master Plumber licensed in Baltimore County to fix the leak. Leaks not only waste water, they encourage the growth of mold, mildew, wood decay fungus (causes structural damage) and support insect populations such as ants and termites.
8. ROOFS SHOULD BE CHECKED YEARLY. A leaky roof is one problem that cannot be ignored. Once the water enters into a structure the damage begins. An interior investigation of the attic space will reveal past or present leak sources such as rusted nails or stains around the roofing nails that penetrate the roof deck. Also, in extreme conditions, black mold would indicate a potential venting problem. If your roof is more than 12 years old, get it professionally inspected. Avoid climbing on roofs as shingles can break and, if the pitch is too steep, a fall could be deadly.
9. KEEP GUTTERS FREE FLOWING: Costly repairs result from water backing up in gutters and seeping into roofs and walls and rotting the wood components. Also, keep leaves and other debris out of window wells and areaways to prevent water from overflowing into your home.
10. FIND A WALL STUD WHEN HANGING HEAVY ITEMS ON YOUR WALLS: When you need to hang something heavy like a flat-screen TV on your wall, you have to make sure to drill into a stud so that it has enough support. The easiest way to find a stud is to use an electronic stud finder. As you pass the device along your wall, it detects density differences. When an electronic stud finder hits a more dense area, it notifies you by beeping or lighting up.
There are also magnetic stud finders that detect any screws or nails that were used to attach the wall to the stud. But if you don't have an electronic or magnetic stud finder, you can still figure out where studs are pretty easily. One option is to scan the wall for electrical outlets, light switches or where a nail runs through the molding. These are all usually attached to a stud, so if you find one stud that way, you can measure off 16 or 24 inches (40.6 or 61 centimeters) in either direction to find the next stud, since that's the standard spacing for studs. Where there's no stud, you'll hear a more hollow sound. If you make a mistake and drill in the wrong place, you can stick a bent piece of stiff wire in the hole and feel around to locate a nearby stud.
Donald Brand, P.E., Building Engineer
Baltimore County Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections
1. INSTALL & MAINTAIN CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO. County law requires CO alarms to be installed in rental properties and newly constructed dwelling units relying on fossil fuel for heating, hot water, clothes drying, etc. or with an attached garage, in the common area outside of, and audible in, each sleeping area. For dwellings constructed on and after January 1, 2008, State law requires AC powered battery back-up CO alarms to be installed.
2. INSTALL & MAINTAIN SMOKE ALARMS. Smoke alarms are the single most important means of preventing house and apartment fire fatalities. Older homes require a minimum of one smoke alarm outside each sleeping area. They may be either battery powered or powered by normal AC house power. A single detector may not provide sufficient notification for a family to escape a dwelling using their primary means of escape. As a result, newer Building Codes require one smoke alarm to be installed in each bedroom, in each area outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms and in each additional story of the dwelling including the basement and any habitable attics. These smoke detectors are required to be powered by a primary power source such as the normal house power as well as be provided with a secondary battery back up source of power. Where more then one smoke alarm is required, then these detectors must be inner-connected so that all detectors sound an alarm at once.
3. REDUCE AIR LEAKAGE. Use weather-stripping in your home to seal air leaks around movable building components, such as doors or operable windows. For stationary components, caulk is the appropriate material for filling cracks and gaps. Also, if you have a fireplace, you have a hole in your roof. That hole, your chimney's flue, sucks the warm air from your furnace, fireplace, or woodstove right out of your house. Dampers are notorious for letting heat leak out of homes. Dampers in older homes have likely deteriorated, warped, or rusted allowing heat to gush out of your home. If you don’t use your fireplace, close off the fireplace flue or install a new, tight sealing energy efficient damper.
4. CHANGE FURNACES AND AC FILTERS REGULARLY. Know the sizes (length & width in inches), and change them on a regular basis, at least quarterly. Buy your filters by the case (usually 6 to 12) and store them near the furnace. This will lessen the tendency to procrastinate your air filter change. Buying by the case can also reduce the cost of each filter change. If you have pets you’ll probably need to change your filter twice as often. Not only are pet dander and pet hair leading allergens, they also clog filters very fast! Always turn off your furnace and AC before replacing your filter as often there is electrical wiring close to the filter location which could shock you if the power is not disconnected first.
5. LEARN ABOUT YOUR ELECTRICAL SYSTEM. Map out your electrical system to determine which circuits serve which outlets, and then label the breakers in the electrical panel. Unless your home is brand new, do not assume the circuits in your home are correctly labeled.
Make sure that receptacles are within reach of sinks and that those outlets located outdoors are GFCI protected to prevent electrocution. A tripped breaker indicates that something is wrong. You may have overloaded the circuit with too many devices, a device may be defective, or the circuit wiring has been damaged. Try removing devices from the circuit. If this does not correct the problem, contact an electrician licensed in Baltimore County. Know the location of all the electrical disconnecting means in your home including utility, solar, and generator shut offs. If you see or smell smoke coming from an electrical device or outlet, call 911.
Lights that flicker, dim or get brighter may indicate a serious problem. If you notice this happening in your home, contact an electrician licensed in Baltimore County. Remember, as useful as it is, electricity can be very dangerous if installed improperly. Contact an electrician licensed in Baltimore County for all new installations.
(Check back. Home, Safe Home tips # 6 through #10 will be posted soon at Baltimore County Now)
Jim O’Neill, Director
Baltimore County Department of Corrections
As I come to the end of my tenure as the Director of theBaltimore County Department of Corrections, I would like to share some observations.
Public safety is truly a top priority in Baltimore County and citizens should know that they are definitely getting their “bang for the buck” in Corrections. Nowadays, a detention center is much more than “three hots and a cot,” (aka three hot meals and a cot to sleep on). It is a closely regulated, high-tech, high-security facility that is a combination dormitory, residential drug treatment facility, cafeteria, school, job training center, gym, medical and mental health center and much more.
We operate the Baltimore County Detention Center with an average daily population of 1,200 inmates for a very cost-effective outlay of $35 million annually. When you compare this amount to other large Maryland jurisdictions with similar or smaller inmate populations, it is quite evident that the professional men and women who operate our jail are doing things right.
Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties have inmate populations equal or less than ours, but they each have annual budgets in excess of $60 million. Your math is correct, they are spending nearly double what we spend in Baltimore County. Anne Arundel County, which has 800 inmates but operates two jail sites, has an annual budget of $42 million. When we consolidated the County’s two correctional facilities under one roof, we achieved significant cost savings through economies of scale – and increased security and safety for staff and inmates. The consolidation of the two facilities and the construction of Towson’s state-of-the-art correctional center continues to make me very proud of what we have accomplished together.
We work hard every day to offer inmates opportunities to address the issues that brought them into the criminal justice system and prepare them for release in a manner that reduces the likelihood of them re-offending. We ensure that every inmate’s Constitutional rights are protected, but we run a tight ship and constantly seek the most efficient and cost-effective ways of doing business. Our automated jail management system maximizes the benefits of technology to improve jail operations. Our secure home detention monitoring system and video bail review program enhances public safety and increases efficiencies across the board.
I am extremely proud of the exceptional men and women who operate our jail. They are the unsung heroes of our criminal justice system working tirelessly behind these walls to ensure the operation of a top-notch institution. Their talents have allowed us to maintain a philosophy of continuous improvement. I would be remiss if I did not thank County Executives Kamenetz, Smith and Ruppersberger for their courage and support over the years. Due to their foresight and commitment, Baltimore County is well positioned to provide for public safety in the correctional realm for many years.
The past 12 years have been the most rewarding of my 38 years as a corrections professional due to the efforts of our staff, the administrative and council support, and that of our citizens. I would like to add that working with my fellow department heads has been productive from my first day, which benefits county residents immensely. We are well positioned to continue evolving, and I will be keeping close tabs on events from my golf cart or fishing boat!