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.
Sheldon Epstein, Chair, Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee
Cyclists and Motorists – Be Safe Out There
Over the past several weeks Department of Public Works contractors have been posting bike route signs and marking bike lanes in the Towson area to encourage us to leave our cars at home and try cycling. The Towson “Bike Beltway” Loop is only one of several new on-road bikeways that are being planned in Towson and other areas in the county.
With these improvements, Baltimore County is joining the growing number of cities, towns and counties throughout the US that are offering bicycling as an active transportation option. The county is making it easier for us to choose to bike, especially for those of us who live close to shopping, work, transit or parks. Cycling is an earth-friendly and healthy way to get around, as long as we do it safely. And it’s not just cyclists that may need a safety refresher. Many drivers who are not used to encountering bikes on the road could benefit from a few traffic safety reminders too.
So, let’s review a few of the rules of the road to help keep everyone safe and happy.
Bikes Belong.Some motorists think roadways are meant to be used only by cars, trucks and buses. But in fact, state law recognizes bicycles as vehicles, and allows them on almost all roadways. Those “Share the Road” signs you see occasionally are posted to alert drivers to expect to encounter cyclists on popular bike routes. But sharing the road is something that motorists and bicyclists should do wherever bicycles are permitted.
Obey the Rules of the Road.Since they are vehicles, bicyclists are expected to obey traffic safety laws. They are required to ride in the same direction as the motor traffic, and stop at stop signs and red traffic signals just as cars do. Slower moving cyclists are to stay to the right hand side of the road to allow motorists to pass them more easily, a law that also applies to motor vehicles. Cyclists are allowed to move left when needed to protect their safety, pass slower moving bicyclists, or make left turns. When passing a cyclist, a new law requires motorists to leave at least three feet of separation.
Be Careful in Intersections: Many traffic accidents (including those with bikes) happen at intersections. So, motorists--yield to cyclists as you would to any other vehicle. Be aware that it can be easy for you to underestimate how fast a bicycle is traveling. Experienced cyclists can be moving at 20-25 m.p.h. or more. And cyclists—always use appropriate hand signals before you turn so that your intentions are clear.
Wear the Helmet: Cyclists 16 and older are not required to wear a helmet, but it’s just a good safety practice. OK, they aren’t that fashionable, but accidents do happen, so protect the most important part of your body–your brain.
Avoid “Dooring”:Bicyclists riding adjacent to parked cars are especially leery of disembarking drivers opening their car doors in their paths. This can really hurt! Both exiting drivers and passing cyclists need to pay special attention when cars are parked on the road.
Please Don’t Yell or Throw Things: Drivers can get frustrated when they get behind a slower moving bicycle. But please take a deep breath, and wait calmly until it is safe to pass. And cyclists–follow the rules, be courteous, and enjoy the ride safely!
For more safety tips, check out: http://mhso.mva.maryland.gov/SafetyPrograms/program_bicycle_safety.htm