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Baltimore County Now

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Keyword: fire safety

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 2 to 3 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!


Natalie Litofsky, Public Safety Office of Media and Communications

photo of house in winterIf you’re planning to take a vacation this holiday season, it’s important for you to add home security to your travel safety checklist. There are simple precautions you can take to keep your home protected from both theft and damage. Just a few extra minutes spent securing your home will help give you the peace of mind to enjoy your trip.

Lock all doors and windows

While most people remember to lock the main door of the home, it’s important to check all the entry points to the house. This includes sliding doors, basement doors, and the interior door that leads to the garage. It’s also essential to lock the windows on each level of your home, not just the ground floor.

Turn off electronics

To help save on energy costs and avoid potential hazards, turn off and unplug small electronics while you’re away. Examples would be items such as a toaster, coffee maker, hair dryer or fan. Larger electronics such as computers and televisions should be plugged into a surge protector in case of sudden power loss.

Water and heat

If you live in an area where pipes are likely to freeze, it’s important to make sure your furnace stays running while you’re away. Most programmable thermostats have a “vacation mode” that will keep your home above freezing while still conserving energy. If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, you may want to consider turning off the water supply from outside your home and draining the pipes.

Perform a maintenance check

Check to be sure there are fresh batteries in your smoke detectors. Make sure that exterior lights have working bulbs to keep the property illuminated at night, and use a timer to turn them on and off. You should also prepare for the possibility of snow while you’re on vacation. Arrange for someone to shovel your walkways and driveway while you’re out of town. Not only is this important for the safety of your neighbors, but it also prevents would-be burglars from knowing the home is not occupied.

Notify a neighbor

Tell a trusted neighbor the dates you’re leaving and returning home. If they know you’re out of town, they’ll be more likely to notice and report suspicious activity. If you’ll be away for more than a day, ask if they’re willing to collect your mail and newspapers. A pile of unclaimed mail is a red flag for would-be thieves that nobody is home. If there is no one available to collect your mail, you can also speak with the post office about stopping mail delivery for the duration of your trip.

Don’t broadcast your location

Social media sites are great ways to keep in touch with friends and family, but they’re also great tools for burglars to use in choosing targets. Don’t post photos or statements that would let someone know that you’re away from home. You should also refrain from using a location “check-in” app that places you out of town. If you want to keep in touch with a friend or family member while you’re away, do so using a more private form of communication such as an email or text message.


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.


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