Educating the public about fire prevention and life safety is an important goal of the Baltimore County Fire Department.
Speaker and Engine Requests
- Contact us at least a month in advance of your meeting or event to a schedule a speaker or engine.
- A literature table with brochures and other information about fire safety and emergency preparedness is available by request.
- Be aware that the engine will remain in service during your event; that means it may leave at any time to respond to a fire or other emergency.
Fire Prevention and Fire Safety
Bonfires and agricultural burning are illegal in Baltimore County without a permit. Additional information is available from our Fire Marshal's Office.
- Leaf burning is prohibited throughout the County. The Department of Public Works collects leaves and other yard waste as part of its regular collection schedule.
- Open burning, including recreational bonfires, is prohibited inside the perimeter of the Beltway (I-695).
- Outside the Beltway, recreational bonfires require a permit from BCoFD's Fire Marshal's Office; 410-887-4880.
Emergencies involving deadly carbon monoxide (CO) gas have resulted in important regulations regarding CO and CO detectors. Property owners and renters should be aware of these laws and Baltimore County government's role in preventing, responding to and investigating CO incidents.
CO Alarms and New Construction
A state law enacted in 2007 requires the installation of hardwired carbon monoxide alarms in a central location outside of each sleeping area within specified dwellings constructed after January 1, 2008. These "specified dwellings" include one- and two-family dwellings, multifamily dwellings (apartments), hotels, motels and dormitories. The bill applies only to dwellings that use fossil fuels for heat, ventilation, hot water or appliance operation.
Prior to issuance of a use and occupancy permit, the Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections (PAI) inspects new construction for the presence of working carbon monoxide alarms.
CO Alarms and Rental Properties
Maryland law requires rental units to install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of the unit, including the basement.
The law applies to dwellings that contain one or more of the following: Fuel-burning equipment, an attached garage and wood-burning fireplaces or pellet stoves.
The CO alarms must be installed in one of the following ways:
- Hardwired into an alternating current power line with secondary battery backup
- Battery-powered, sealed, tamper-resistant and using a battery with a life of at least 10 years
- Through a security system, i.e., connected to an on-site control unit that monitors the CO alarm remotely and alerts a responsible party when the device sounds an alarm
- Combined with a hard-wired smoke alarm, if the combined device complies with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards
The law also requires owners to provide written information on alarm testing and maintenance to at least one adult occupant of the unit, to maintain records of notification, and to install alarms for hearing-impaired residents if a hearing-impaired person lives in the unit.
The CO law is enforced by the County's Code Enforcement bureau.
One- and Two-Family Homes
The 2009 International Residential Code adopted by Baltimore County and effective July 1, 2010 requires that an approved CO alarm be installed outside of each sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of bedrooms in the following:
- Newly constructed one- and two-family dwelling units
- Existing one- and two-family dwellings where work requiring a building permit occurs if a fuel-fired appliance is installed in the home or if the home has an attached garage
Response to a CO Emergency
Firefighters and EMS personnel respond to 911 calls involving sounding CO detectors and illness involving suspected CO exposure. Typically, they will:
- Use gas meters to monitor the presence of CO and evacuate the building if the readings show the building is unsafe.
- Ventilate the building.
- Locate the source of the CO and take immediate steps to stop the leak/buildup, usually by shutting down the appliance that is causing the CO buildup.
- Contact BGE, if necessary.
- Monitor, treat and transport patients affected by CO.
- In cases involving rental units, fire officials will contact Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections for calls involving more than 50 ppm of CO. PAI will ensure that any necessary work is properly permitted and performed by a qualified, licensed contractor.
Education and Prevention
Prevention is the key to avoiding problems associated with CO. Educate yourself about carbon monoxide—what causes it, the symptoms of CO poisoning, how to install detectors.
A Fire Department representative can visit your community group to discuss this important home safety issue.
BCoFD encourages residents to know the rules and regulations about fire pits and chimineas. Please take appropriate safety precautions when using these popular outdoor, wood-burning devices.
Chimineas, fire pits and outdoor metal heaters are subject to the same fire code restrictions as charcoal grills:
- Use or storage on balconies or patios, or within 15 feet of multifamily buildings, (including apartment buildings) is prohibited.
- Fire pits and chimineas are allowed on property occupied by one- and two-family dwellings, including townhouses.
- The devices cannot be used to burn trash.
The use of fire pits and chimineas is unrestricted at one- and two-family homes, including townhouses. However, fire officials strongly recommend that they be kept at least 15 feet from the home.
Call 911 to report fire-related activity that appears unsafe.
The Baltimore County Police Department, with support from the Fire Department, provides monthly car seat checks; contact 410-887-8717.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the leading source of current information on car and booster seat installation, safety and regulations.
The use of charcoal or gas grills requires careful attention to safety. BCoFD recommends that you carefully read specific product information after buying new backyard grill equipment; review this information each year.
Local fire codes prohibit the use and storage of all types of grills on any balcony or within 15 feet of multifamily buildings such as apartments. The prohibition includes gas- and propane-fueled grills, charcoal grills, electric grills and deep fryers. Use of these devices at multifamily buildings poses a serious fire risk to all residents of the building.
This restriction does not apply to townhouses or single-family homes.
Each year, the Fire Department publishes a complete list of legal public fireworks displays for the Fourth of July holiday.
Aerial fireworks are illegal for home use in Maryland unless part of a display permitted by the Fire Marshal's Office. Many ground-based sparklers—the kind sold at retail stores and kiosks—are legal in Baltimore County. Hand-held sparklers also are legal here. Learn more about fireworks laws and safety concerns.
Baltimore County averages five to ten drownings and near-drownings each year. Many of these tragedies involve people who decided to cool off in reservoirs or other bodies of water where swimming is illegal.
Laws Regarding Open Water Swimming
Swimming is illegal in the three Baltimore City-owned reservoirs located in Baltimore County: Prettyboy, Loch Raven and Liberty reservoirs. "No Swimming" signs are posted at all obvious and some less obvious points of access to the water.
The Baltimore Environmental Police (part of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, which controls the metropolitan water supply) patrols the three reservoirs. They have full police powers to patrol and enforce laws on watershed property.
Swimming and other water activities, including tubing, are permitted at your own risk in some rivers and streams running through state parks—unless the area is posted, “No Swimming.”
Most state parks have beaches or waterfront areas designated for swimming; in those parks, swimming is prohibited outside the designated areas. Contact the state park you plan to visit for detailed information about what is allowed.
Swimming in private, abandoned quarries constitutes trespassing and is illegal.
Dangers of Open Water Swimming
Reservoirs were not designed for swimming and are unsafe. They are full of hidden rocks, fallen trees and unstable ledges. The depths fluctuate suddenly. Water visibility is poor. Underwater currents can be treacherous.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) officials advise extreme caution even in areas where open water swimming is permitted. Open water swimming poses different risks than pool swimming because of limited visibility, tidal action and fluctuations in water depth and temperature. It is unwise to swim without a lifeguard on duty. Always check the water depth and for hidden rocks before diving.
About Tubing, Canoeing and Kayaking
When tubing, canoeing and kayaking, make sure you do not venture onto a stream or river that is moving swiftly or carries you to an area of rapids.
Safe tubing, canoeing and kayaking requires knowing what you're getting into. Map out a route beforehand, and physically inspect it to make sure the waterway is calm. Give a friend or family member a copy of the route so that, if necessary, they can help rescue crews locate you. Know how long it will take to float along your tubing route, so that you do not get caught after dark in an isolated, unfamiliar area.
Adults and children who cannot swim should not participate in tubing, canoeing and kayaking. Fire officials recommend use of a personal flotation device even for those who can swim.
Smoke alarms are the single most important means of preventing home fire fatalities. They provide an early warning signal so you and your family can escape.
Nationwide, only six percent of homes do not have smoke alarms, but these homes account for more than half of all home fire deaths.
Smoke alarms are required in the sleeping areas of most residential occupancies. State and local fire codes require smoke alarms in a variety of other occupancies, including hotels and motels, family day care homes and day care centers.
BCoFD strongly recommends smoke alarms in multiple locations in every home.
Smoke Alarm Program
BCoFD's Smoke Alarm Program puts firefighters in touch with residents who have questions about proper smoke alarm use. The program is available to all residents but puts special emphasis on communities at greater risk of residential fires.
Constituents using the Smoke Alarm Program may be eligible for free smoke alarms.
For information, contact 410-887-6552.
Maryland Smoke Alarm Law
Residential smoke alarm laws involving the type of allowable battery-powered alarms changed in 2018. Find detailed information about the Maryland Smoke Alarm Law.
BCoFD offers these tips for installing and maintaining smoke alarms:
- Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement. Do not put smoke alarms in the kitchen, bathroom or the garage because cooking, steam and exhaust fumes may set them off.
- Install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas, since many dangerous fires occur late at night or early in the morning. If you sleep with your bedroom door closed, install an alarm inside the room.
- Install smoke alarms on the ceiling or above eye level on the walls. Smoke and deadly gases rise, so installing them at the proper height will provide the earliest possible warning.
- These devices are easy to install; usually a screwdriver is the only tool you'll need.
Most hardware and home supply stores carry smoke alarms.
Requesting a Speaker
Fire personnel welcome the opportunity to speak to schools and community groups about fire, emergency management and general fire service operations.
Requesting an Engine
In addition to the engine, consider requesting a literature table with brochures and other information about fire safety and emergency preparedness. The engine crew will be able to answer questions about these issues.
Be aware that the engine will remain in service during your event; that means it may leave at any time to respond to a fire or other emergency.
How Pedestrians Can Avoid Injury
The Baltimore County Fire and Police departments respond to more than 400 pedestrian-vehicle crashes each year. Pedestrian error is often a factor.
- 80 percent of pedestrian crashes in Baltimore County involve pedestrian error.
- 60 percent of pedestrians killed in Baltimore County are adults over age 40.
- Every day someone is hurt or killed crossing the street in Baltimore County.
Tips for Walking Safely
Just as drivers are expected to avoid distractions, it's important for pedestrians to do the same. Time of day is also an important factor in these crashes, as the majority of pedestrian crashes in the County happen between 3 and 10 p.m.
Here are a few simple safety precautions:
- Always cross at traffic lights, marked crosswalks or intersections.
- Obey traffic signals at all times. Don't attempt to cross if the signal tells you to stop.
- Stay alert when crossing. Even when the signal says WALK, check that the path is clear.
- Try to make eye contact with drivers before stepping off the curb.
- Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the side of the road, facing traffic.
- Wear bright or reflective clothing at night.
- Avoid distraction when crossing. Turn off headphones and put away your cell phone before crossing.
Video: Getting There Safely
This National Highway Traffic Safety Administration video illustrates safe and unsafe pedestrian behavior. The video answers common questions and addresses misconceptions about the pedestrian's responsibilities.
Know the Laws
To maintain safety on the roads, traffic laws govern the behavior of both motorists and pedestrians. Pedestrians do not always have the right of way; there are also situations where the pedestrian is expected to yield to vehicles.
Laws for Pedestrians
- At an intersection, a pedestrian is subject to all traffic control signals.
- If a pedestrian crosses a roadway at any point other than in a marked crosswalk or in an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, the pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching on the roadway.
- If a pedestrian crosses a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing is provided, the pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching on the roadway.
- Between adjacent intersections at which a traffic control signal is in operation, a pedestrian may cross a roadway only in a marked crosswalk.
- A pedestrian may not cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by a traffic control device for crossing movements. If authorized to cross diagonally, a pedestrian may cross only in accordance with the traffic control device.
- If practicable, a pedestrian shall walk on the right half of a crosswalk.
- Where a sidewalk is provided, a pedestrian may not walk along and on an adjacent roadway.
- Where a sidewalk is not provided, a pedestrian who walks along and on a highway may walk only on the left shoulder, if practical, or on the left side of the roadway, as near as practical to the edge of the roadway, facing any traffic that might approach from the opposite direction.
- A pedestrian who crosses a roadway shall yield the right of way to any approaching emergency or police vehicle that is using audible and visual signals.
Laws for Motorists
- The driver of a vehicle must stop for a pedestrian at crosswalks and intersections without signals when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling.
- The driver of a vehicle must stop for a pedestrian at intersections with signals.
- When proceeding on a green signal, drivers turning right or left shall yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully within the crosswalk.
- When turning right on red after stopping, drivers shall yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully within the crosswalk.
- Motorists must obey speed limits.
Swimming-related tragedies can be avoided with common sense and mindfulness about safety precautions.
- Many drownings in pools involve young children. Never leave a child unattended around a pool.
- Do not become complacent or lose track of your child at a public pool. It only takes a second for a child to disappear beneath the water. The best lifeguard is not a substitute for parental supervision, especially on busy pool days.
- If a child is missing, check the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability; brain cells begin to die after four to six minutes underwater.
- Remove toys from the pool and pool area when not in use.
- Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
- Make sure pool fencing has gates that are self-closing and self-latching.
- If the pool is accessible by a pool ladder, the ladder should be locked in the upright position when the pool is not in use.
- Always test the water depth before diving. Teach children where they can and cannot dive, and enforce rules strictly.
- Keep rescue equipment and a telephone by the pool. Learn CPR.
- Avoid rough play that may cause injury or drowning.
- Educate your family on proper pool use.
Open Water Swimming
Swimming is illegal in the three public reservoirs in Baltimore County: Prettyboy, Loch Raven and Liberty.
Open water swimming poses different risks than pool swimming because of limited visibility, tidal action and unpredictable fluctuations in water depth and temperature.
Exercise good judgment about your swimming ability and follow these tips:
- Never allow children to swim alone. Make sure they swim in designated areas. Check the depth and current of the water before allowing them to swim. Do not rely on "water wings" and other flotation devices.
- Avoid swimming when a lifeguard is not on duty.
- Always check the depth of the water and for hidden rocks and trees before diving.
- Wear life jackets when boating.
- Only experienced swimmers should swim in open water environments.
For additional information about fire safety and injury prevention, visit these agencies: