Baltimore County Now
Captain 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 wire 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.
· 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:
Kristi Pilarski, Adopt-A-Road Coordinator, Bureau of Highways
Cigarette butts, soda cans and other trash you may see along the road is not just unsightly, but it can get washed down into storm drains during a heavy rain, wash into our waterways and pollute recreational water areas, drinking water supplies, and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay. This is why Adopt-A-Road is one of our solutions for the environment and your community.
You can see our green and white Adopt-A-Road signs all around Baltimore County, showing community support for a Clean, Green Baltimore County. It is easy to join the Adopt-A-Road program. A group makes a commitment to pick up roadside litter just four times per year for at least two years.
We receive support from the community from all types of adopters. Adopters include civic and non-profit organizations, school groups, commercial and private enterprises, families and individuals. We have adopters of all ages, the youngest being 12 years old. I am always looking for new adopters, individuals or groups, to help grow the Adopt-A-Road program.
This program is a great service project for all sorts of groups, and especially helpful for high school students who need community service hours to graduate. It’s a nice way for families to come together to show support for their neighborhood. One of our newest groups, a motorcycle club, even made participation in Adopt-A-Road a prerequisite to joining their club.
Our Adopt-A-Road program started twenty years ago and had much success in the past. I am hoping to continue to make it successful and grow the program, so we can help keep Baltimore County’s roads clean.
I try to keep everything simple for the adopter. Once the application is approved, I give the safety training to the coordinator or to the entire group. At that time, I supply the group with all the supplies needed for the cleanups. We supply the trash bags, pickers, gloves, signs and the safety vests. Each group receives an Adopt-A-Road sign at their adopted road location and we will collect the trash bags after each clean up.
If you would be interested in the Adopt-A-Road program, I would love to hear from you! Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-887-3560.
Keith Duerling, P.E.
Structures Division, Bureau of Engineering
Department of Public Works
Baltimore County has 675 bridges of all sizes – from major spans that carry thousands of cars each day, to culverts which are merely drain pipes allowing small streams to flow under roads. But whether the structures are big or small, they all deserve (and get!) the same careful, regular inspection which ensures the safety of the traveling public.
Baltimore County classifies its bridges by length: structures over 20 feet and structures under 20 feet. Bridges are inspected every two years by a qualified, engineering company. These consultants are selected by the Maryland State Highway Administration for Baltimore County and the cost of the inspections is borne by the Federal government. Bridges that are less than 20 feet are handled in much the same way, except that the County selects the bridge inspectors and the State of Maryland pays for 80% of the inspection cost.
During the inspection process, engineers assess the condition of (1) bridge decks (i.e. the travel surface), (2) the superstructure, (3) the substructure, (4) the condition of the structure exposed to rivers, streams and runs, and (5) the condition of culverts. Inspection is a hands-on exercise and crews visually take the spans apart looking for signs of aging, deterioration, cracks, structural movement or any telltale sign of wear and tear. On occasion, steel structures may require ultrasonic testing, but most of the examinations depend on engineering knowledge and experience. Potential problems are described and assessed in detailed written reports and any bridge with negative indicators is put on a repair or replacement schedule.
Bridge safety is of paramount importance in the County because the Department of Public Works and its engineers recognize that there are no second chances when it comes to bridge safety. Every traffic-bearing structure in Baltimore County is continuously monitored and rigorously inspected every two years. In short, structural problems are addressed well before they can impinge upon travel safety.