Safety & Prevention

Fire Prevention Bureau


Fire Prevention involves a two-fold approach to public fire safety by combining enforcement and regulation of the Baltimore City fire code and a community based public education program.

On the enforcement side, the Fire Marshal’s Office works closely with city building code inspectors to ensure all new commercial and residential construction within the city meets the established fire code. This includes testing and approval of fire protection systems, plans review of new sprinkler systems, fire alarms, etc., and reviewing architectural plans for "Life Safety Code" compliance. In addition, it oversees all efforts to bring all older commercial buildings up to present day code.

The difference between how the city building code and city fire codes function can be thought of like this; While the building code requires all new construction to meet current regulations requiring on site fire suppression systems, the fire code acts more like a maintenance regulation. This is done through annual inspection and permitting. Some examples are the inspection of establishments for "Public Assembly" such as bars, night clubs, sports arenas, restaurants and churches, inspections for verification of code compliance items in homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and issuing Fire Prevention Permits for required occupancies, called the "Use and Occupancy" Permit. Every building in the city where the public works, plays or spends time is inspected annually. Private residences are not.

Encouraging citizens to practice fire safety during the holidays

Keeping Safe From The "Silent Killer"

As the winter months are upon us, the Baltimore City Fire Department would like to remind everyone to have your home heating appliances such as your furnaces, hot water heater and other fuel-burning appliances in the home inspected by an authorized utility company to prevent the serious hazards of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless and toxic gas, and is often referred to as the “silent killer.” When inhaled, it inhibits the blood’s capacity to transport oxygen throughout the body. It can poison the body quickly in high concentrations, or slowly over long periods of time.

What are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness and even loss of consciousness. In severe cases, CO poisoning can cause brain damage and death. The elderly, children and people with heart or respiratory conditions may be particularly sensitive to CO.

How is carbon monoxide generated in the home?

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion of fuel such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal, gasoline or wood. This incomplete combustion can occur in any device that depends on burning for energy or heat, such as furnaces, room heaters, fireplaces, hot water heaters, stoves or grills and any gas powered vehicle or engine. Automobiles left running in attached garages, gas barbecues grills operated inside the house, or kerosene heaters that are not properly vented, or chimneys or vents that are dirty or plugged may create unsafe levels of CO.

When properly installed, maintained and vented, any CO produced by these devices will not stay inside the home.

What are some danger signs?

  • You or other members of your family have symptoms of CO exposure (see above).
  • You notice a sharp, penetrating odor or smell of gas when your furnace or other fuel-burning equipment turns on.
  • The air is stale or stuffy.
  • The pilot light of your furnace or other fuel-burning equipment goes out.
  • Chalky white powder forms on the chimney/exhaust vent pipe or soot build-up occurs around the exhaust vent.
How can unsafe levels of carbon monoxide be detected?

Carbon monoxide detectors monitor airborne concentration levels (parts per million) of carbon monoxide and sound an audible alarm when harmful CO levels are present.

If you suspect carbon monoxide in your home…

If you or anyone else in your home is experiencing the symptoms of CO poisoning, ensure that everyone leaves the home immediately, leaving the door open. Call your local fire department or 911 from a neighbor’s telephone.

If your CO detector sounds do NOT assume it to be a false alarm. Open all doors and windows to ventilate the home. If you cannot find the problem and the alarm continues, contact the fire department. If there is a strong smell of natural gas in your home, evacuate immediately, leaving the door open and contact your local gas utility company.

If no symptoms are experienced, reset the detector and check to see if the alarm activates. If the detector sounds a second time, call the local fire department for their assistance.

If the detector does not sound a second time, check for common conditions that may have caused a CO build-up (see the accompanying illustration) or contact a qualified heating contractor to check your fuel-burning equipment.

Where should a carbon monoxide detector be located in the home?

Proper placement of a CO detector is important. In general, the human body is most vulnerable to the effects of CO during sleeping hours, so a detector should be located in or as near as possible to the sleeping area of the home.

If only one detector is being installed, it should be located near the sleeping area, where it can wake you if you are asleep.

Where sleeping areas are located in separate parts of the home, a detector should be provided for each area.

Additional CO detectors should be placed on each level of a residence and in other rooms where combustion devices are located (such as in a room that contains a solid fuel-fired appliance, gas clothes dryer or natural gas furnace), or adjacent to potential sources of CO (such as in a teenager’s room or granny suite located adjacent to an attached garage.)

Unlike smoke, which rises to the ceiling, CO mixes with air. Recognizing this, a CO detector should be located at knee height (which is about the same as prone sleeping height). Due to the possibility of tampering or damage by pets, children, vacuum cleaners and the like, it may be located up to chest height. To work properly, a detector should not be blocked by furniture, draperies or other obstructions to normal air flow.

If a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector is used, it should be located on the ceiling to ensure that it will detect smoke effectively.

To keep safe, please remember:

  • You have a responsibility to know about the dangers of carbon monoxide. Your knowledge and actions may save lives.

If you are in need of a carbon monoxide detector, please visit your local building supply store.

Through the Baltimore City Fire Department’s 311 Smoke Alarm Program, residents of Baltimore City can receive free smoke alarms. Please call 311 and within two hours firefighters will come to your home to install 10 year lithium tamper resistant smoke alarms on each level of your home.

A properly installed smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector may save your life, or that of a loved one.

Baltimore City Fire Department