Baltimore County News
Battalion Chief David Bycoffe
Office of Emergency Management
While Tropical Storm Hermine hasn’t quite confirmed her East Coast reservations yet, current forecasts as of midday Friday look like she’ll give the Baltimore region a pass. Even so, it’s still a timely reminder for all of us to make sure we have a plan in place to keep our families safe for any emergency that could come up.
The Baltimore County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is closely watching the radar and continuing to prepare for the final months of hurricane season. One of the most important things to do when hurricane weather is threatening is to stay informed. We have several ways to provide you with up-to-the minute information. You can follow us on Twitter @BACOemergency or like our official Police and Fire Facebook page. Residents are also encouraged to visit our web site regularly at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/emergency_prep/index.html for updated information as well as tips and information on preparation. Shelter information, evacuation orders and recovery resources will be publicized through these platforms.
No Twitter account or login is required to view @BACOemergency updates – just visit https://twitter.com/BACOemergency. As with many organizational social media accounts, the County’s emergency managers provide outgoing messages but are not in a position to respond to followers.
A hurricane is a significant storm that typically develops in the Caribbean and moves west, often landing in the Gulf of Mexico or the eastern coast of the United States. Meteorologists separate Hurricanes from other tropical storms by wind speed, damage potential, and other technical measurements. Hurricane season runs from May through November each year, and 2016 has already seen several named storms.
Ready? Set? Good!
There are a number of important measures you can take to prepare for a hurricane, and the best time to do it is when the skies are still clear. Families should prepare a disaster supply kit that includes a flashlight, batteries, cash and copies of critical information, such as insurance information. In addition residents are encouraged to have a supplemental power source for charging communication devices. Those living in homes with well water should have several gallon jugs of water on hand. More information on storm readiness can be found on the County website at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/emergency_prep/index.html.
County residents are also encouraged to have a family disaster plan. This plan should include a predetermined meeting area and shelter location in case family members are away from home when the weather turns ugly. Baltimore County has several sheltering locations available throughout the County that are opened as needed during disaster events.
In addition, a family communication plan should be prepared which includes a single contact person for all members to call if separated during emergencies. If possible, choose a contact from another region not likely to be impacted by the weather event.
All Hands on Deck
The Baltimore County Office of Emergency Management is constantly preparing to respond, should our community be hit with hurricane activity. OEM believes in a whole community response to disasters, which includes multiple agencies working together to serve all of our stakeholders. This includes not only the County Fire and Police departments, but the departments of Health, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Health and Human Services, the school system and others. We also coordinate with state and federal resources and our regional partners like BGE, the Red Cross and more. These agencies are ready to provide preparedness, response and recovery assistance to all of our citizens, visitors and business owners. This plan ensures a quick and effective response to the needs of all those we serve.
The Mid-Atlantic region is no stranger to hurricane activity. Taking the time to be prepared and informed will have a great impact on response and recovery whenever the next storm makes landfall in Baltimore County.
Recommendations from the County Fire Marshall and Building Engineer…
- Avoid walking under awnings and other lightweight canopies.
- Make sure you are able to open your exterior doors in the event of an emergency. You may want to keep storm doors in the open position to avoid these outward swinging doors being blocked by deep snow. Try slightly opening your exterior doors to see that they operate easily.
- Watch for overhanging snow and ice that may become dislodged and fall suddenly.
- Avoid being under skylights where possible.
- Clear roof drainage areas of ice and snow to avoid back up of water into down spouts that could cause ice/snow damming of roofs and gutters.
- Maintain a path from the exterior exit doors so that you can move to a safe distance from your house in case of fire.
- Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide-detectors for proper operation.
- Check on elderly neighbors and relatives.
- If you have concerns about the safety of your home, then relocate to a safe structure. Plan ahead with a nearby neighbor to assist in relocating to another nearby home/building.
Important Tips from Safety Experts
This kind of cold weather is not just unpleasant, it can be dangerous. Baltimore County’s safety experts have some important tips for protecting your home and family.
DPW Says Let Faucets Drip
Baltimore County’s Department of Public Works advises homeowners to let water taps drip during this week’s extreme cold weather. During single-digit temperatures last year, more than 500 water meters froze. Maintaining the flow with a slow drip, say County engineers, will usually keep water in the pipes from freezing, and save homeowners considerable grief.
Last February Baltimore City (which maintains and repairs the metropolitan water system) was swamped with requests to thaw frozen meters. With the County's help, water service was quickly restored. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Power Outage Precautions
Power outages can go side-by-side with winter storms. Lights go out and some lose heat. When this happens some of us turn to generators to keep warm and informed.
Generators produce carbon monoxide, CO, a deadly gas. Keep your generator at least 15 feet from the house or building. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding use and review the Fire Department’s safety tips for portable generators.
For those who have gas stoves and ovens, never use an oven to heat your home!
Ice Can be Dicey
Cold weather along with snow and ice can be dangerous. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to problems in the winter.
Beware of “black ice” when you leave your home or work. What appears to be a wet surface can be very slick ice. Be cautious and take your time walking on this winter treat. This warning applies to driving too! Many accidents occur when black ice forms.
Ice melting products should be kept near the door along with your shovel. And beware of steps and handrails; they can be treacherous if not wiped down and salted.
Don’t Overdo with the Shoveling
Anyone who has heart disease or chronic lung disease should not shovel snow or scrap ice. Shoveling is hard on the heart muscles and can cause a cardiac event. Ask a friend, neighbor or relative, or hire someone to clear the sidewalk and driveway.
Stay Warm and Dry
When venturing out in the cold, wear a hat or scarf, warm gloves or mittens, and warm, dry socks inside your boots. Wear a heavy coat, jacket or dress in layers. If the wind is blowing then wear a scarf across your face. Wind burn is hard on the skin just like sun burn. Wear sunscreen in the winter.
And last but not least, remember your pets. They feel the cold as much as you do and rely on you to keep them safe and warm.
Public Safety Office of Media and Communications