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Baltimore County Now

Stay informed of what's happening in Baltimore County.
Keyword: emergency management

graphic of storm clouds with lightningCaptain Lonnie Ledford, Baltimore County Fire Department

A few weeks ago, in Part 1 of this blog, I covered thunderstorm watches, warnings and a few safety tips. Let’s pick up right where we left off, including some tips that apply just as well to the winter storms that are just around the corner.

Lightning rods attached to structures provide the safest pathway to ground for homes and businesses. If your home does not have one, the current from a lightning strike may travel via the home’s electrical or plumbing systems and could start a fire.  Also, remember to unplug sensitive electrical equipment such as computers and entertainment systems that are susceptible to electrical surges. You should seek shelter when the first rumble of thunder is heard, because if you can hear the thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning.  Also, remain inside for at least one-half hour after the thunder stops. 

Another electrical hazard that may be encountered in a storm is the possibility of downed electrical wires.  DO NOT try to approach or move these wires as there may be a ground current that could be deadly. If in a vehicle, do not try to drive over wires on the ground or under hanging wires near a roadway. Getting within several feet of a downed wire may cause it to arc.  If the 9/18/14wire is arcing or smoking, call 911 to report the hazard.

Downed power lines routinely lead to power outages in an area. Caution should be used when dealing with these situations as well.  Battery powered lights should be used instead of open flame candles and oil lamps due to their inherent fire dangers.  Portable generators produce deadly carbon monoxide gas that can build up and create a toxic atmosphere inside of a structure.  Several fatalities have been attributed to operating portable generators inside or too close to an occupied structure. Also, take care to utilize the proper gauge extension cords with the generator and do not overload them. 

Wind created by a severe thunderstorm can also be deadly.  Loose debris can be blown into the air and cause damage to structures and injure people.  If you do not have permanent mounted and operating shutters on your home, closing the blinds and drapes can provide a slight buffer against debris that may break and enter a window.  A heavy plastic trash bag or a tarp and duct tape should be available as a temporary repair in case of a window being broken during a storm.  Make a list of items that you want to bring inside in case of a severe thunderstorm.  Remember to include items such as plants, pool items, wind-chimes and flags.   Patio furniture, grills and items that are too large to be brought inside or cannot be placed in a garage or shed should be tied down and secured.  If there are large trees on your property they should be trimmed regularly to ensure that there are no dead branches that could be broken and fall in high winds.  Dead trees near a structure should be removed to prevent damage due to being blown over in a storm. 

Flash flooding commonly leads to flooded roadways. NEVER try to drive through standing or moving water. It only takes eighteen inches of water for a vehicle, including trucks and SUV’s, to become buoyant. Moving water can then push the vehicle sideways and it may rollover trapping occupants inside. When in doubt: Turn Around Don’t Drown!

Use easy to understand language to explain the sights and sounds that may be experienced by young children during a thunderstorm.  Once they understand what is making the “loud boom and bright light” outside, it may help reduce their apprehension and anxiety during a storm. 

Lastly, every home should have an emergency plan and an emergency kit that includes at a minimum:

·         enough food and water to last for 72 hours per person

·         a flashlight with spare batteries

·         a battery operated radio or weather radio

Severe weather planning resources can be found at:

·         The National Weather Service

·         Ready.gov

·         Baltimore County’s Emergency Management web site


photo of snowy sceneMark Hubbard, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

For as long as I can remember, the weather services used human names for hurricanes.  If you are unlucky enough to have one of those names (Agnes, Isabel, Katrina, Floyd, Horatio etc.) you may be branded with the image of tragedy and destruction.

When it came to other severe weather, like tornadoes, we usually refer to the storm by the name of the town most severely impacted and perhaps the severity rating on the Fujita scale.  Example: " That F5 tornado that struck Smallville."

Since the inception of 24/7 news coverage that included severe weather television and radio channels devoted purely to weather news, a new phenomena is emerging – the effort to brand other storms, in particular, winter storms, as well. For example, the President's Day storm of.........; the Valentines day storm of....... and so on.  Broadcast news also likes to use bold character graphics in the news cast:  Blizzard of 2010, etc.  If you ask me, this only magnifies the stress we often experience when preparing for and suffering through these storms.

But perhaps there is a purpose to all of this. Consider a system where we used a scientific-like numbering system.  So perhaps instead of referring to Hurricane Isabel by name, we instead said Hurricane #2003-6.  Somehow, this generic label simply does not seem to fit.  So maybe it is not so crazy to now see many other severe weather events given a human name.  Branding a storm does somehow seem to add character and  identity – almost a personality. In the case of winter storms, The Weather Channel has decided to name this winter’s storms after Greek mythology icons like Atlas, Boreas (Greek god of the cold north wind), Electra, Hercules, Ion, Janus and Titan.

The February 12th storm is called Pax, the Latin word for peace. Let’s hope it’s an appropriate name and that we don’t make it all the way to Zephyr this year!

Take a look at what the Weather Channel had to say about it. And, oh, how we love our brands! So let's just roll with it for now. Otherwise, imagine a world without Coke or Pepsi.  It would seem a bit flat (pun intended) if we knew them just as Cola #1 and Cola #2. (You figure out which is which!)   

Regardless of what we call them, winter storms are worthy of respect and caution. So, everyone please remember to exercise common sense at home and on the roads, and keep up with Baltimore County’s winter storm operations at  www.baltimorecountymd.gov/snow and on Twitter at @BACOemergency.


Scenes from Hurricane Isabel

by Mark Hubbard

 Director of the Baltimore County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Ready? Set? Good!
 
That's the theme for personal preparedness when it comes to planning and being ready in the event of a local community or countywide emergency.  Several years ago, emergency management agencies throughout the Baltimore region developed the “Ready? Set” Good!” campaign as a way to spread the word that every household is responsible for disaster preparedness.

As you may know, June 1 is the start of hurricane season. And, of course, spring and summer weather increases the risk of severe storms. These storms often cause power loss, local flooding, or other community specific problems.  Navigating the recovery process can be much easier if you take a few steps to prepare.
 
Don't laugh, but in my garage you will find a 30-gallon trash can filled with water.  Why? Because in the event of a water outage, I need a ready supply of non-potable water to flush toilets.

Generally, you should have the following emergency supplies available: a gallon of drinking water, per person, per day, for three days; a battery-operated flashlight (kept within reach); and a battery-operated portable radio.  This simple kit will ease the pain of the first three days in the event of a prolonged power outage.

Many people also have portable generators, but you must be extremely careful to avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide fumes entering your home. Always operate generators outdoors and at least 15 feet from the home.
 
So here's your homework: Try to go three days without turning on a light switch or any electrical appliance and don't use the faucet.  See my point?  It's not fun.
 
To learn more about preparedness tips and plans, visit the Emergency Management web page at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/emergency

Have a safe and happy summer season, and let's hope for a calm hurricane season.


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