Baltimore County News
Natalie Litofsky, Public Safety Information Specialist
Baltimore County Fire Department
July 4th weekend is one of the most popular occasions for family and community cookouts. While you’re serving up burgers and hotdogs, it’s also important to remember that safety is still a serious element of summer fun.
The Baltimore County Fire Department recommends that backyard grillers carefully read specific product information after buying new barbeque equipment, and that they review this information each year.
County law prohibits the use of charcoal or propane-fueled grills – or any other open-flame cooking or heating device – on any balcony or within 15 feet of multi-family buildings such as apartments. This restriction does not apply to townhouses or single family homes.
Liquefied petroleum gas (propane) used to fire gas barbecue grills, is highly flammable. Propane is contained under pressure in a steel cylinder. Vaporized and in a confined area, it has the explosive force of several sticks of dynamite.
You should never use a gas grill inside of a structure or store the propane tanks inside of any part of a structure, such as an enclosed porch or balcony. Keep propane tanks in a shady or cool area outside and in the upright position so the relief valve is on top.
Inspect propane grill hoses and connections prior to use. Make sure all fixtures, valves, and caps on propane canisters are working and are tightened properly. If the hose has deteriorated or the fittings are loose, do not use the grill until you correct the problem.
Although they may be eager to help, you should never let young children use a gas-powered barbecue grill.
Never use a charcoal barbecue in an enclosed space or inside the house. Combustion of charcoal produces carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. You should place a charcoal grill on a non-combustible surface a safe distance away from any structure.
It’s very important that you keep children away from a charcoal grill, because there is serious risk of both injury and spreading fire if they were to knock it over.
Do not use lighter fluid on a fire that has already been started. If you need to use a starter fluid, use only charcoal lighter fluid and follow the directions on the container. Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid to start a grill.
After you are finished grilling, pour water on the charcoal or ashes before disposal so they will not restart a fire.
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
Chief Electrical Inspector
We often hear in the aftermath of a house fire that the cause of the fire was electrical. Since we all have electricity in our homes it’s easy to we feel vulnerable and helpless if you don’t understand how electrical fires get started.
Most electric fires are caused by loose connections, dryer lint, improper use of extension cords, old, non UL approved appliances, or worn out and broken switches and receptacles. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are more than 26,000 residential fires each year linked to electrical problems. In 2012, 8.3% of fatal residential fires were due to electrical malfunctions.
A little knowledge and some diligence on your part can prevent most fires in your home.
1) Empty the dryer lint tray after each load. Lint is extremely flammable and can be ignited by the heat from the dryer.
2) Never use extension cords as a permanent wiring method. The wires in a cord are significantly smaller than the wiring in your walls and, over time will heat up and catch fire. Also consider the use of UL rated cords and the addition of surge protected power strips.
3) Old appliances, switches, and receptacles should be replaced periodically.* They wear out and the connections inside separate slightly. When this happens, the electricity has to jump through the air to make the connection heating the air around the connection and starting a fire.
How often to change them depends on how often the device is used. Usually, light switches should be changed every 10 years at the latest. They crack internally and dry out. You can't see the problem so it's impossible to know that it needs to be changed. Use your best judgment with switches - the older switches were more solid and actually able to withstand much more that modern switches. Receptacles are a little bit easier. When the plugs no longer fit firmly in the socket it's time to replace the receptacle. When appliance cords become worn or the appliance begins behaving badly, it's time to replace or repair it.
4) If you have aluminum wiring in your home always have a licensed electrician make any repairs. Improper connections, or connection to devices that are not designed for aluminum wiring can start a fire.
5) If you observe your lights continually dim then grow bright, this could be a loose connection. Contact your utility company.
6) If you hear a sizzling noise coming from a switch or appliance; Find the circuit breaker for that circuit and turn it off. Contact a licensed electrician to check the circuit.
7) If you smell ozone, or an unusual electrical smell, this means that something electrical is heating up. Find the source and turn it off. Call a licensed electrician.
8) If you observe smoke or sparking contact the Fire Department.
It is always a good practice to make sure that the circuits in the breaker box are properly identified. This will help you find the source of a circuit quickly if you have an emergency.
Always check to make sure any appliance you purchase is approved by UL or some other recognized testing laboratory.
Never use unlicensed electrical contractors. Baltimore County licenses over 4400 electrical contractors who are qualified to serve you.
If you have any questions or concerns you may call 410 887-3960 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.