Monday’s announcement by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) of a water emergency has residents and officials making contingency plans. The “water emergency” involves the repair of a large water main, with loss of water starting as soon as Tuesday evening and lasting between 2 to 5 days in areas affected by the outage. WSSC has urged residents to stockpile as much water as possible before the outage occurs, including filling pitchers and bathtubs. This outage could affect as many as 100,000 homes and businesses.
The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department is also making plans in the event of a fire emergency in areas that may not have working hydrants. Any reported structure (house, apartment, commercial building, etc.) fire includes at a minimum seven pieces of fire apparatus that carry 2000 gallons of water. This amount of water is often time more than sufficient to handle most extinguishment efforts. The Department’s contingency plans most likely will include the relocation of water tankers that can carry as much as 3000 gallons of water and the dispatch of additional water-filled engine companies. Fire apparatus will also be prepared to “draft” water from waterways and swimming pools, if necessary. The Department has reached out to neighboring jurisdictions for the use of additional water tankers. To date, Howard County and Charles County have committed these valuable resources over the course of the outage.
A rough calculation of areas affected include Suitland Parkway to Southern Avenue (District of Columbia border); District of Columbia border south to the Potomac River, including the National Harbor down to Fort Washington Marina; east through the communities of Allentown and Clinton, up Kirby Rd; and Joint Base Andrews to Pennsylvania Avenue back to Suitland Parkway.
“We are fully prepared to work without the fire hydrants in the affected areas for a few days,” said Fire Chief Marc Bashoor. There is a Fire/EMS Department representative in attendance at the partial activation of the County Emergency Operations Center, and there has been and will continue to be an open line of communications with WSSC officials.
We are asking our citizens, residents, and businesses in the affected areas to be extra vigilant about fire safety during this time. While fire prevention and safety habits should be a part of everyone’s daily routine, the Fire/EMS Department is sending a reminder about some of the most common causes of fires. Let’s prevent a fire from ever starting.
Fire Prevention Safety
Cooking—most notably unattended cooking—is the leading cause of fires and fire-related injuries. Always remain in the kitchen when cooking, and never leave food on the stove unattended.
Overloaded electrical outlets and power strips – examine your electrical appliances and where they are plugged into an outlet. Never overload or plug too many items into one outlet or power cord. Do not have power cords and power strips hidden under furniture, carpets, or other combustibles.
Discard lighted tobacco products in a proper container. Consider using an ashtray that has water at the base to ensure lighted material is extinguished.
Keep matches and lighters stored in a location where curious youngsters cannot reach them.
If cooking outside, keep your grill at least 10 to 15 feet away from a structure (30 feet away from apartment buildings). Grills have been known to ignite siding on a house and wooden decks. Avoid discarding your used charcoal ashes during this time. Have a bucket of water or sand nearby to douse any fire at or near your grill.
Consider refraining from using candles or fragrance incense during this time. Never leave these items burning unattended.
Test your smoke alarm to ensure it is working. If it is not working, go to a local home improvement store and purchase and install a new 10-year smoke alarm. Early notification to get out of your home and notification to 911 are critical to saving lives and property.
If you decide to leave your home during this period of inconvenience, consider unplugging all of your nonessential electrical appliances. Also, notify a trusted neighbor that you are leaving for a few days, and provide them your contact information.
This water outage comes at a time when high temperatures will be excessive and potentially unhealthy. The Fire/EMS Department encourages everyone to stay well hydrated during this heat wave. Take the time to fill water bottles, pitchers, and other clean containers with water. Continue to drink plenty of water.
Remember, your pets also need water.
Check on senior citizens, family members, and neighbors to make sure they are aware of the impending outage and have water stored per WSSC recommendations. While you are there, check their smoke alarm.