Safety Tips

How prepared are you in the event of a fire? Do you know what to do if your CO alarm sounds? Are you ready for the grilling season? Find out what you can do to prepare yourself and your family for various emergencies by reviewing our list of safety information below. 

Carbon Monoxide Safety

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced from fuel burning appliances in and around the home, an oil furnace, a natural gas water heater and even a lawn mower.

Carbon monoxide is responsible for more deaths than any other single poison.

Precautionary Measures

  • At the beginning of every heating season, you should have all fuel-burning appliances checked by a qualified technician
  • Also, inspect all chimneys and flues to ensure they are connected and free from blockages.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, near the ceiling within 5 feet of gas fueled appliances
  • Install and maintain appliances according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • Never idle cars in the garage whether the garage door is open or not.
  • Never use a charcoal grill indoors
  • Do not use any gasoline-powered engines in enclosed spaces

Never use a gas oven to heat your home

It is illegal in Baltimore City to use kerosene heaters indoors

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms. Some symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Mild nausea
  • Mild headaches

Moderate levels of Carbon monoxide exposure can cause death if the follow symptoms persist.

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness

High levels of carbon monoxide can be deadly within minutes.

What to do when your CO detector sounds?

  • Call 9-1-1
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be turned off until checked by a qualified professional
  • It is important to open all windows to ventilate the home with fresh air
  • Evacuate the house

Anyone who is experiencing symptoms should go to the emergency room to be immediately checked.

What type of carbon monoxide detector should you use?

The best type of carbon monoxide detector is one that has a low-level indicator. This will help you guard against any health risks.

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Citizen Preparedness Guide

Prepare Your Children:  It is recommended that you give your children the telephone number of a family member or friend if they are unable to reach you in an emergency.

Prepare for Your Pets:  Find out in advance (in case of an emergency) if you can leave your pets with a friend, at a local shelter, or whether certain local hotels will accept pets.

*Keep a carrying case and any needed supplies handy. Ensure that your pet remains up to date on all of its immunizations.

Insurance:  Be knowledgeable of the kind of disasters that you are insured against and what it includes. If you are live in an area that is prone to certain disasters, take steps to protect your valuables, records and heirlooms.

The Three Essentials:  Every household in the Baltimore region should have supplies to last for 72 hours after a disaster. If you have these three essential supplies you will be able to effectively manage the most common crises affecting our region – weather-related power and water outages.

Buy these three essentials first:

  • A battery-powered radio with extra batteries. If the power goes out, a battery-powered radio is the only way to receive information.
     
  • Flashlights or battery-powered lanterns with extra batteries. These are essentials are good to have during relatively brief power outages. (Don't use candles! They pose a serious fire risk.)
     
  • Water to last three days. That’s at least one gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation. Mark the date on the container, and replace it every six months.

For more detailed information regarding preparedness, please visit our partners at The Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management at: http://emergency.baltimorecity.gov

Clothes Dryer Safety

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates 15,500 fires associated with clothes dryers occur annually in the U.S. These fires account for an average of 10 deaths and 310 injuries and more than $84.4 million in property damage annually.

  • Do not operate the dryer without a lint filter. Clean lint filters before or after each use and remove accumulated lint from around the drum.
  • Make sure that the dryer is plugged into an outlet suitable for its electrical needs as overloaded electrical outlets can result in blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers.
  • Turn the dryer off when leaving home.
  • Keep the dryer area clear of combustibles (i.e., boxes or clothing).
  • Dryers should be installed and serviced by a professional.
  • Have gas-powered dryers inspected by a professional regularly to ensure that the gas line and connection are intact.
  • Make sure dryers are properly vented.

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Electrical Fire Safety

Electrical fires claim the lives of 280 Americans each year. Most of these fires are caused by incorrectly installed wiring and overloaded circuits and extension cords.

During a typical year, home electrical problems account for 26,100 fires and $1 billion in property losses. About half of all residential electrical fires involve electrical wiring. 

December and January are the most dangerous months for electrical fires. Fire deaths are highest in winter months which call for more indoor activities and increases in lighting, heating, and appliance use.

 Safety Precautions

  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately. Do not try to repair them.
  • Buy only appliances that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory (UL rated).
  • Major and small appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord. Unplug small appliances when not in use.
  • Use only surge protectors or power strips that have internal overload protection and have the label of a recognized testing laboratory (UL rated).
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
  • Avoid putting cords where they can be damaged or pinched by furniture, under rugs and carpets, or across doorways.
  • Extension cords are for temporary use only. Have a qualified electrician determine if additional circuits or wall outlets are needed.

Spot the DANGER Signs

  • If fuses blow or circuit breakers trip frequently, wiring may not be adequate.
  • Feeling a tingle when you touch an electrical device.
  • Discoloration of wall outlets.
  • A burning smell or unusual odor coming from an appliance or wiring.
  • A sizzling sound at wall switches or outlets.
  • Flickering lights.

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Fall Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that falls are the leading cause of death from unintentional injury in the home. But you don't have to be a victim. The following eight Remembering When tips can help keep you safely on your feet.

Exercise Regularly

  • Exercise regularly to build strength and improve your balance and coordination.
  • Ask your doctor or health care provider about the best physical exercise for you.

Take Your Time

  • Being rushed or distracted increases your chance of falling.
  • Get out of chairs slowly.
  • Sit a moment before you get out of bed.
  • Stand and get your balance before you walk.

Clear the Way

  • Keep stairs and walking areas free of electrical cords, shoes, clothing, books, magazines, and other clutter

Look out for Yourself

  • See an eye specialist once a year. Poor vision can increase your chance of falling.
  • Improve the lighting in your home.
  • Use night lights to light the path between your bedroom and bathroom.
  • Turn on the lights before using stairs.

Slippery When Wet

  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
  • Install grab bars on the wall next to the bathtub, shower, and toilet.
  • Wipe up spilled liquids immediately.

Throw Rugs Can Throw You

  • Use only throw rugs with rubber, non-skid backing.
  • Always smooth out wrinkles and folds in carpeting.

Tread Carefully

  • Stairways should be well lighted from both top and bottom.
  • Have easy-to-grip handrails installed along the full length of both sides of the stairs.

Best Foot Forward

  • Wear sturdy, well-fitted, low-heeled shoes with non-slip soles. These are safer than high heels, thick-soled athletic shoes, slippers, or stocking feet.

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Group Home Safety

The Staff’s Job

Mentally disabled people often have difficulty grasping and reacting to unfamiliar situations, such as a fire emergency, but many are capable of learning practical fire safety skills. In group homes, it is the staff’s job both to guard against fire hazards and to teach residents fire safety

Group-home administrators, working with The Baltimore City Fire Department, should make detailed evacuation plans for the facility– including a floor plan mapping primary and alternative escape routes.   They should schedule regular fire drills and incorporate fire safety training into employee orientation and continuing education programs

Be prepared: Stop fires before they start

Enforce smoking rules

If smoking is permitted, designate areas where residents and staff can smoke, and be sure every resident understands the restriction. Post all no-smoking areas and never allow smoking in bedrooms, hallways or stairwells. Provide large non-tip ashtrays and empty them frequently, wetting the contents before disposal or dumping them into metal containers.

Check electrical equipment

Replace cracked or frayed electrical cords. Never pinch electrical cords behind furniture or run them under carpets, across doorways or any place they will be stepped on. Do not plug one extension cord into another or more than one into one outlet. Unplug any electrical appliance that overheats or gives off unusual odors and have it repaired. Have maintenance staff conduct routine electrical inspections

Heating and Cooking Safety

Never leave cooking unattended. Do not allow grease to build up on ovens, ducts, filters, or vents. Keep combustibles-including paper, clothing and furniture away from heating units

Eliminate Clutter

Keep combustible materials away from heat-producing devices-even reading lamps. Keep halls and stairwells clear at all times.

Maintain Smoke Alarms and fire safety equipment

Install smoke alarm in all sleeping areas and hallways. Test batteries once a month and change batteries twice a year during daylight savings time (consider 10 years Lithium Battery Alarms). Inspect all fire safety equipment on a regular basis. Know the location of fire alarm boxes in your facility. Be familiar with the emergency lighting and sprinkler system in your facility

Have Fire Extinguishers handy

Designate and train staff members to operate portable fire extinguishers and be sure that a sufficient number of trained staff are on duty at all times. The extinguisher must be appropriate for the type of fire being fought

Maintain Exits

Keep emergency doors closed, but not locked from the inside. Never wedge them open. Keep exits clear and be sure the EXIT signs are lit at all times.

  • Practice Your Escape plan
  • Get  out fast
  • Know two ways out of every area of the home
  • Meet outside at a designated place
  • Teach survival skills

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Halloween Safety

Halloween should be fun and safe for children and parents. Follow these simple rules to be sure that it is.

  • Purchase only costumes, wigs and props labeled flame-resistant or flame-retardant. When creating a costume, choose material that will not easily ignite if it comes in contact with heat or flame. Avoid billowing or long trailing features.
  • Provide children with lightweight flashlights to carry for lighting or as part of their costume
  • Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper are highly flammable. Keep these and other decorations well away from all open flames and heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.
  • Use flashlights or battery-operated candles when illuminating jack-o'-lantern. Use extreme caution when decorating with candle lit jack-o'-lanterns, and supervise children at all times when candles are lit. When lighting candles inside jack-o'-lanterns, use long, fireplace-style matches and be sure to place lit pumpkins well away from anything that can burn including doorsteps, walkways, and yards.
  • Remember to keep exits clear of decorations, ensuring nothing blocks escape routes.
  • Use flashlights as alternatives to candles or torch lights when decorating walkways and yards. They are much safer for trick-or-treaters, whose costumes may brush against the lighting.
  • Instruct children to stay away from open flames or other heat sources. Be sure children know how to stop, drop and roll in the event their clothing catches fire. (Stop immediately, drop to the ground, covering your face with your hands, and roll over and over to extinguish flames.) Cool, the burn.
  • Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, that the venting is kept clear and unobstructed, and that the exit point is properly sealed around the vent, all of which is to make sure deadly carbon monoxide does not build up in the home.
  • Instruct children who are attending parties at others' homes to locate the exits and plan how they would get out in an emergency.

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Holiday Safety

Christmas Trees

  • Freshly  cut trees and flame-retardant artificial trees bearing the UL label significantly reduces fires
  • The trunk of the tree should be cut off at an angle and kept in a water-filled holder. Make sure the tree is fastened securely
  • Every year, examine lights for frayed wires and loose sockets. Use only lights that are UL approved
  • Never place a tree near any heat source (radiators, fireplaces, portable heaters, etc.) Don’t place tree in front of a doorway.
  • Don’t use candles as decorations or displays on or around the tree.
  • Never place electric lights on an artificial metal tree.
  • Keep gift wrappings away from electrical wiring and electric or battery-powered toys away from the tree

Tree-Watering Tip

Watering a tree with gifts underneath can be tricky. To avoid watering gifts along with the tree, try placing ice cubes in the base of the tree. As the ice melts the tree will be watered, gifts and nearby electrical wires will remain dry

Decorations & Trimmings

  • Use decorations made of non-combustible, non-leaded materials. Avoid decorations that tend to break easily or have sharp edges
  • Keep tree ornaments that are sharp or have removable parts out of reach of children. Don’t purchase decorations that resemble candy or foods– small children may try to eat them

Gifts

 A smoke alarm and CO alarm makes an ideal gift. The Baltimore City Fire Department provides free Smoke Alarms, call 311.

Fireplace

  • Enclose the front of your fireplace with a screen to confine embers and sparks to your firebox
  • Remove all paper, decorations, boxes, bows and other flammables from the vicinity of your fireplace. Make sure the flue is open before lighting the fireplace!

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Home Heating Safety

Space heaters

Portable and stationary, account for one-third (32%) of home heating fires and four out of five (80%) of home heating fire deaths. The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (26%) was a failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys. Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment or placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding, was the leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half (51%) of home heating fire deaths. Half (50%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January, and February.

Fireplace

  • Enclose the front of your fireplace with a screen to confine embers and sparks to your firebox
  • Remove all paper, decorations, boxes, bows and other flammables from the vicinity of your fireplace. Make sure the flue is open before lighting the fireplace!

General Tips

  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly.

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Outdoor Grilling Safety

To make sure your next barbecue does not go up in flames, follow these safety tips:

  • Designate the grilling area a No Play Zone, keeping kids and pets well away until grill equipment is completely cool. 
  • Before using, position your grill at least 3 feet away from other objects, and 10 feet away from the house and any shrubs or bushes.
  • Only use starter fluid made for barbecue grills when starting a fire in a charcoal grill.
  • Never bring a barbecue grill indoors, or into any unventilated space. This is both a fire and carbon monoxide poisoning hazard.
  • Before using a gas grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to be sure it is working properly and not leaking.
  • Check grill hoses for cracks, brittleness and holes. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the tubing.
  • Never use a match to check for leaks. If you detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don't attempt to light the grill again until the leak is fixed.
  • Always keep propane gas containers upright.
  • Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill or indoors.

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Poisoning Prevention

Poisoning is the second leading cause of unintentional home injury fatality, resulting in one-quarter of all home injury deaths on average each year. Still more than half of families reported chemicals left unlocked and more than 80 percent of homes leave medicines unsecured.

  • Make sure all potentially dangerous products (household cleaners, medicines, and typical garage items like antifreeze and pesticides) all have child-resistant closures on them, are locked up and are stored in high places.
  • Homes with young children should have child locks installed on cabinets.
  • Store food and non-food products separately. This protects consumers in the event of a leak in the product and reduces a possible confusion between items.
  • Make sure all medicines and prescriptions have not expired. Dispose of medications properly.
  • Immediately mop up puddles of anti-freeze and car oil in the garage or driveway. They are extremely harmful to children and pets.
  • Read the use and storage directions before using products. Original labels on product containers often give important first-aid information.
  • Wear gloves and follow manufacturer’s instructions when using harsh chemicals or cleaners.
  • Do not mix household products, because a dangerous gas might form.
  • Post the national poison control hotline (1-800-222-1222) next to every phone.
  • To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, have your home heating equipment inspected annually and install a UL-listed CO alarm near every sleeping area.

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Seniors Fire Safety

Smoke alarms protect you day and night. A smoke alarm sounds an alarm when a fire is just getting started, which enables you to get out of your home and call the fire department. Additional time is especially important to older Americans. Seniors are slower to react to fire, more quickly overcome by smoke and most likely to fall during an escape. The U.S. Fire Administration states that a properly working smoke alarm in your home cuts your chance of dying in a fire in half!

Be careful when you smoke.

The leading cause of fire deaths among the elderly in the US is careless use of smoking materials. Never smoke in bed! It’s just too easy to fall asleep, especially late at night after you’ve taken medication. If you live with someone who smokes, watch them carefully to make sure they don’t fall asleep with a lit cigarette. Don’t place ashtrays on the bed, sofa or the arms of chairs. Place them on tables where they are least likely to be knocked over.

Be especially careful while working around the stove

70% of all people who died because their clothing caught fire were over 65 years of age! Long sleeves are more likely to catch fire than short sleeves. Long sleeves also are more likely to catch on pot handles overturning pots and pans causing scald burns.  Store all combustible items away from the stove. Roll up long sleeves, remove any towels hanging too close and remove any curtains that could come into contact with the stove.

Be prepared for fire

Once a fire starts it spreads quickly. Since you won’t have much time to get out of the house, it is important to have a fire escape plan. Make sure you have two ways out of every room. Seconds count!

Don’t be a packrat

Dispose of old newspapers, magazines, and rags properly. Do not store them near cleaning fluid or kerosene. Do not block exits within the home.

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Security Bars

People are afraid of crime near their homes. To feel safe, many people install security bars on their doors and windows. Some security bars also called burglar bars can trap you in a fire. They can also keep firefighters from getting in to rescue you.

Tips for Home Escape

  • Have working smoke alarms in each bedroom. You also need one outside each sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home. Mount alarms in the basement.
  • Test all smoke alarms once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarms are working.
  • Draw a map of your home. Show all doors and windows.
  • Find at least two ways out of every room.
  • Choose an outside meeting place. It should be a safe distance from the home. It should be visible from the street.
  • Talk about the plan with everyone in your home. Have a fire drill in your home twice a year.
  • Make sure all exits can be opened easily from the inside.
  • This includes barred doors and windows.
  • Choose security bars that have quick-release devices.
  • Make sure everyone in the home can open them.

Quick-release security bars

In some areas, laws have been passed about security bars. In many places, codes and laws require the security bars have a quick-release device. NFPA Life Safety Code states that all locks must be opened easily from inside. Tools, keys, or special effort should not be needed to escape.

  • Ask your fire department or housing official about the laws in your area.
  • Ask community leaders to get funds to update the security bars. This will help more people have quick-release bars.
  • Ask the fire department for a presentation on security bars and home escape.

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Shabbat Safety Tips

 Shabbat, a centerpiece of Jewish life, is observed every week by families throughout the world. The day of rest and celebration requires preplanning. Fire safety should be an important element of the preparation.

Smoke Alarms

  • It is important to install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and in the basement.
  • For the best protection, the smoke alarms should be interconnected. When one smoke alarm sounds they all sound.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. Look on the back of your smoke alarms for the date; if it is 10 years old replace right away.

Escape Planning

  • Make a home escape plan with your family that includes two ways out of every room.
  • Have an outside meeting place a safe distance from the home where everyone should meet in case of emergency.
  • Practice your home fire drill twice a year, at night and during the day with everyone in your home.
  • If the smoke alarm sounds, family members should get outside and stay outside. Call 9-1-1 from outside the home. On Shabbat, a neighbor could be approached to call 9-1-1 once everyone is safely outside.

Food Warming

  • When warming food, use a device such as a slow cooker or a cooktop or range with a Shabbat mode and a blech.
  • These devices are designed for long-term warming.
  • Make sure your warming device has the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Keep anything that can burn away from these heat sources, such as curtains, towels, paper and pets.

Candles

Candles should be placed in a sturdy candle holder. If a candle must burn continuously, be sure it is enclosed in a glass container and placed in a sink on a metal tray. The candle can also be placed in a deep basin filled with water.

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Swimming Pool Safety & Security

Many drowning incidents involve swimming pools and spas. Drowning is a silent and sudden event. Nationwide, 300 children under the age of five die each year in swimming pools, and 2000 more are taken to emergency rooms with pool-related injuries. Adopt the following guidelines to help keep your pool area safe.

  • Always practice constant adult supervision around any body of water. Older children should not be left in charge of younger children in the pool area.
  • Install four-sided fencing that isolates the pool from the home. Four-sided pool fencing is proven to be an effective drowning prevention intervention.
  • Position gate latches out of the reach of young children.
  • Never prop the gate open or disable the latch.
  • Clear debris, clutter and pool toys from the pool deck and adjoining pathways to prevent falls.
  • Keep a cell phone or cordless, water resistant telephone in the pool area and post emergency numbers near the pool area.
  • Enroll non-swimmers in swimming lessons taught by a qualified instructor. Pediatricians recommend that children ages 5 and older learn how to swim.
  • Knowing how to swim does not make a child drown-proof. Flotation devices are not a substitute for supervision.
  • Never swim alone. Even adults should always swim with a buddy.
  • Learn and practice the basic lifesaving techniques, including First Aid and CPR.
  • Insist that anyone who cares for your children learn CPR.
  • Keep poolside rescue equipment close to the pool area.
  • Remove toys from around the pool when they are not in use.
  • Instruct babysitters and visitors about the "rules of the pool."

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