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Baltimore County Now

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Keyword: fire department

Louise Rogers-Feher
Public Safety Information Specialist

Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly. A byproduct of any combustible fuel, CO is tasteless, odorless and colorless. Death from CO poisoning can happen in a matter of hours.

The most recent national data shows a mortality rate of 430 deaths per year. At least 15,000 people are sent to the emergency room every year because of CO. It doesn’t have to happen.

CO is measured in parts per million (ppm). The higher the ppm level, the greater danger and the less time it will take to become seriously ill – or die.

The longer a person is exposed to CO, the greater the chance for serious illness or death.

At 200 ppm, a patient will experience mild headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness after two to three hours. As the ppm rise, the symptoms intensify.

At 800 ppm, a patient will experience convulsions after 45 minutes and may become unconscious and die within two to three hours.

Death by carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable.

What precautions should you take?

  • Install CO detectors in your home. The CO alarm saves lives by letting you know you have a CO problem.
  • Place one near sleeping areas and one in the living areas.
  • Test CO alarms once a month.
  • CO alarms have two sounds. One sound is the alarm and the other sound means the battery is low. Test them to know the difference.
  • If the battery is low, replace it.
  • If the alarm sounds, leave immediately and get outside to the fresh air. Call 911 from a fresh air location. DO NOT open the windows or doors other than your exit door. Fire fighters will need to take a reading of the CO levels to determine the source of the leak.
  • CO detectors are sold in national chain stores and hardware stores.
  • Keep generators at least 15 feet from doors and windows.
  • Never use gas or charcoal grills inside the home.Don’t use gas ovens to heat the house.
  • Check gas appliances regularly as they can be a source for CO leaks.
  • Never leave your vehicle running in the garage even if the car tailpipe is facing out of the garage. Take the vehicle outside.
  • In the event of snow, clear tailpipes on all vehicles.
  • Clear snow from dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace vents. During a major snowstorm, you’ll probably need to do this a few times.
  • Leave the fireplace vent open after putting out the fire. You may close the glass doors, but not the vent. Hot embers produce CO if air is cut off. If you must close the vent, place the embers and ashes in a metal container; place it outside, away from the house.

Stay safe – get a CO alarm!


photo of person lighting candlesLouise Rogers-Feher, Public Safety Office of Media and Communications

Candles and lights, synonymous with the holiday season, can pose a risk to safety. The Baltimore County Fire Department asks everyone to follow basic precautions as we move into the holiday season.

Candle safety

Candles pose one of the most serious home fire risks – especially during the holidays. During a five-year period, 2007-2011, a national average of 29 home candle fires was reported every day. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are over twice as many home fires caused by candles in December compared to the other months of the year. We are in the peak time of year for home candle fires as they are left unattended or placed too close to holiday decorations.

Candle placement is important. Never place a candle near curtains. A slight breeze coming from a window or door could easily ignite the curtain and start a fire. Set candles on stable surfaces. Aunt Mae’s antique table may look pretty but is it sturdy enough to take a bump without spilling over the candle?

Don’t leave candles lit when you’re not around. If you’re leaving the room, snuff or blow out the candles.

To get the most light from your candle, use a glass hurricane cover. They reflect the light giving a brighter glow. They are both pretty and safe.

Tea light candles should not be set out on their own. There are many safe and festive tea light holders that will fit any décor.

Never leave children or pets alone in a room with lit candles. Beyond the threat of fire, melted wax can cause severe burns.

The best way to avoid a problem is to invest in battery powered candles. They glow bright without risk of fire.

Bright lights and safety

Electric lights pose different problems. The NFPA states electrical problems were factors in one third of Christmas tree structure fires.

Always buy lights that are indoor and outdoor approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Throw away light sets with frayed wires. An exposed wire could cause a fire. You aren’t saving money if you wrap a light socket or frayed wire with electrical tape. And really, it looks bad.

When stringing outdoor lights, only use lights meant for the outdoors. Outdoor lights have plugs and sockets that are weatherproof. Rain, snow and wind can tear up decorations and pose an electrical hazard unless you use lights specifically designed for outdoor use.

Extension cords

The type of extension cord you use is important. Use a cord that is the right length for the job. Don’t connect one extension cord to another.

While you might want to hide the power or extension cords, don’t put them under rugs, carpets or furniture because this poses a fire hazard.

Common sense tells us not to run power cords or extension cords in high traffic areas. Someone could trip and pull the power plug out of the socket.

When using extension cords for outside lights and decorations, be sure that you’re using cords that are meant for outside.

Recycle your tree

Trees tell us when they’re done. Needles fall off. That’s your cue to get rid of the tree. The County will pick up trees at your house after Christmas and recycle them into mulch. It’s easy for you and great for the environment.

Enjoy the holidays.


safety sign with jack-o-lantern imageNatalie Litofsky, Public Safety Office of Media and Communications

From the spooky decorations to the scary costumes, Halloween is a holiday that embraces the fun side of fear. Though zombies and vampires are imaginary dangers, it’s important to watch out for a real safety hazard on Halloween – cars.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Halloween is the second-deadliest day of the year for pedestrians.

Parents and children alike should remember these road safety tips while trick-or-treating:

·        Trick-or-treat while there is still daylight. The sun sets around 6 p.m., so keep this in mind when planning your route. Talk with your neighbors in advance to let them know you’ll be trick-or-treating earlier in the evening.

·        Stay within a familiar neighborhood. This is the best way to travel where you know there are safe places to cross the street.

·        Be a role model when it comes to obeying pedestrian traffic laws. Cross only at a crosswalk or intersection, and only when signal indicates you may cross. Tell your kids to walk on the sidewalk. If there are no walkways, stay as close to the curb as possible.

·        Provide children with flashlights or other non-flammable light sources so they can see and be seen while walking. Glow bracelets or reflective tape are also a good way to increase visibility after dark.

·        If your child’s costume includes a mask, make sure the eye holes do not obstruct vision. Try a test walk down a hallway in your home to practice looking for traffic while wearing a mask.

·        Kids should always be accompanied by an adult while trick-or-treating. As a general rule, it’s best to have one adult for every three to six children.

·        If you are driving a car on Halloween, be aware of the increase in pedestrian traffic. Obey the posted speed limit, make sure your headlights are on and keep an eye out for pedestrians along the roadway.

More useful information on pedestrian safety can be found online at Baltimore County’s Walk Safe resource page.
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