Baltimore County Now
Natalie Litofsky, Public Safety Office of Media and Communications
If 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.
Natalie 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.
Captain Bruce Schultz
Baltimore County Office of the Fire Marshal
When police, fire or medical emergencies occur, the single most critical link in the chain of survival is the citizen who calls 911 to report the situation and provide details.
Once a call comes into the 911 Center, a call taker answers the phone and begins to collect pertinent information about the location of the incident, type of emergency and phone numbers. They also can provide essential instructions to the caller about how to assist until the arrival of the police and/or fire department responders.
Once call takers determine which agency -- or both -- is needed, the call is routed to the police and/or fire dispatchers who assign the closest appropriate units and get them started towards the address of the emergency. While emergency responders are en-route, the 911 Center call taker will continue to gather additional information which provides responders with a better idea of the location and exactly what is happening.
Citizens can help responding units in a number of ways:
· In areas where long or common driveways exist, or in an apartment or office building, have someone meet the emergency units at the entrance and direct them into the exact location where help is needed.
· In recreational areas or shopping centers, take note of the building or store name and helpful landmarks. This can save precious minutes.
· Try your best to keep calm and provide as much specific information as you can about the location and the type of emergency you are reporting.
· If possible, have someone ready to meet and update the responders. The quicker responders can gauge the situation, the sooner the proper interventions can begin.
· Before an emergency occurs, make sure that your house or building has visible street numbers that are easy to read, even at night. The Baltimore County Fire Prevention Code requires residential numbers to be at least three inches in size. Commercial buildings must be marked with six- inch numbers.
These are some of the most important ways you can help us help you!