Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Keep Your Family Safe this Thanksgiving

Did you know that cooking fires are the #1 cause of fires? 

More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a rookie cooking your first holiday feast, the strategies for serving up a safe meal are the same. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of residential fires and we’re asking residents to follow these simple safety tips and to have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Cooking Safety Tips:

  • Be alert! Stay in the kitchen when using the stovetop and use a timer. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a minute, turn off the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire at least 3 feet from the stove, toaster oven or other heat source. This includes pot holders, food packaging, dish towels, paper/plastic bags, etc.
  • Do not pour water on a grease fire. Pouring water on a grease fire can cause the fire to spread. In the event of a range-top fire, turn off the burner, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by carefully sliding a lid or cookie sheet onto the pan. Leave the lid in place until the pot or pan has cooled.
  • Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease buildup which can ignite.
  • Always wear short, tight-fitting sleeves when cooking to prevent clothing from coming in contact with a burner and catching fire.
  • Do not hold children while cooking or carrying hot foods or drinks. Keep children at a safe distance from hot surfaces, liquids and other kitchen hazards.
  •  Plug microwaves and other kitchen appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  • Double-check the kitchen before you go to bed or leave the house. Make sure all other appliances are turned off and that any candles or smoking materials are safely extinguished.
  • Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, test alarms monthly and change batteries annually or as recommended by the manufacturer if your alarm features long-life batteries.

  • Turkey fryers are becoming an increasingly popular choice to cook the Thanksgiving turkey and can be extremely dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. If your plans include using a turkey fryer, fire department officials urge residents to follow all manufacturer directions closely and to review the following safety tips: 

    Turkey Fryer Safety Tips:

  • Never leave a fryer unattended.
  • By design, turkey fryers are prone to tipping over. Fryers should always be used on a non-combustible, flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Fryers should always be used outdoors at least 10 feet from buildings and any flammable materials. Never use a fryer on a wooden deck, under a patio cover, in a garage, porch or other enclosed space.
  • Do not overfill the fryer. The oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner/flames resulting in a potential fire hazard that could engulf the entire unit.
  • Oil and water do not mix! Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before it is placed in a fryer. Partially frozen turkeys can cause a spillover effect which may result in a fire. 
  • Some units do not have thermostat controls and, if not carefully watched, have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching the pot or lid handle. The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot and can result in severe burns. If available, use safety goggles to protect your eyes from any oil splatter.
  • Keep children and pets away from fryers. The oil can remain dangerously hot even hours after use.

  • Following these simple fire safety tips can boost survival rates and reduce injuries dramatically.  For more information about our fire safety programs or to request a free home safety evaluation or smoke alarm check, please contact the County’s non-emergency call center at 311 during business hours.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2015

    Exit Drills In The Home - Have Two Ways Out!

    Having working smoke alarms and residential fire sprinklers play a large role in you and your loved ones surviving a fire in your home. Another crucial part of surviving a fire in your home is developing a home fire escape plan and then PRACTICING the plan! As they say in sports: "If you fail to prepare than prepare to fail!"

    While we hope you never experience a fire in your home, the women and men of MCFRS hope that you prepare the right way so as to increase the chances you and your loved ones will survive if fire does occur.

    You can go here to learn how to develop a plan: Develop a Home Escape Plan

    Once you develop that plan and familiarize all occupants of the home with the plan, make sure you hold a fire drill -- just like you did in school -- to practice the plan!

    Below is a great video from our partners in safety at FEMA and the US Fire Administration that provides more information.

    Monday, November 16, 2015

    Time to "Retire" Your Old Smoke Alarms?

    Courtesy of NFPA
    I wanted to make sure all of you knew that smoke alarms need to have a retirement plan - as most of us do. Once your alarms reach the ripe old age of 10, they are eligible for "retirement" and need to be replaced by a new generation of smoke alarms.

    Even if your 10 year old, or older, smoke alarm still sounds when you push the test button, it should be replaced.

    To learn more about smoke alarms, please go here: Smoke Alarms

    To learn how to properly dispose of a smoke alarm, please go here: How to recycle/dispose of smoke alarms

    For those with battery powered alarms, please go here to learn about Maryland's Updated Smoke Alarm Law.

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    What's Invisible, Has No Smell, But Can Kill You?

    Carbon monoxide is the most common cause of death by poison in the United States, killing more than 500 people every year. It is one of the most dangerous poisons because often people don't know it is present until it is too late. The best way to protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning is to buy a carbon monoxide (sometimes referred to as CO) detector for your home. A properly working carbon monoxide detector can provide an early warning before deadly gases build up to dangerous levels. If you live in a home that is two stories or more, you might want to install two.

    For more information, see the "Is it Flu or Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?" page.

    If you notice these symptoms and suspect that carbon monoxide is the cause, leave the area immediately and get outside to fresh air. Call 9-1-1 and seek medical help.
    Be reminded: Installing a carbon monoxide detector does not eliminate the need to have a smoke alarm in your home. Carbon monoxide detectors do not detect smoke and smoke alarms do not sense carbon monoxide.

    CO poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. (Source: Centers for Disease Control)


    • CO is a produced anytime a fuel is burned. Potential sources include gas or oil furnaces, water heaters, space heaters, clothes dryers, barbecue grills, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, gas ovens, generators and car exhaust fumes.
    • Every year more than 10,000 people die or seek medical attention due to CO poisoning from home-related products. (Source:  Consumer Product Safety Commission)
    • More than two-thirds of Americans use gas, wood, kerosene or another fuel as their home's major heat source.
    • 65% of CO poisoning deaths from consumer products are due to heating systems.
    • Only 27% of homes in America have carbon monoxide alarms, according to recent industry research.
    • An idling vehicle in an attached garage, even with the garage door opened, can produce concentrated amounts of CO that can enter your home through the garage door or nearby windows.
    • CO poisoning deaths from portable generators have doubled for the past two years, and many of these deaths occurred in the winter months and during power outages.
    • A poorly maintained gas stove can give off twice the amount of CO than one in good working order.


    • Install at least one battery-powered CO alarm or AC-powered unit with battery backup on each level of your home and near sleeping areas.
    • Have a licensed professional inspect heating systems and other fuel-burning appliances annually.
    • Install fuel-burning appliances properly and operate according to the manufacturer's instructions.
    • Keep chimneys clear of animal nests, leaves and residue to ensure proper venting. Have all fireplaces cleaned and inspected annually.
    • Do not block or seal shut the exhaust flues or ducts used by water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers.
    • Do not leave your car running in an attached garage or carport.
    • Do not use ovens or stoves to heat your home.
    • Do not use charcoal or gas grills inside or operate outdoors near a window where CO fumes could seep in through a window.
    • Check all carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Do they use the most accurate sensing technology? Do they need new batteries?
    Replace CO alarms every five to seven years in order to benefit from the latest technology upgrades.