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Monday, February 16, 2015

Tips to Help Prevent Frozen Pipes in your Home and Business



MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

mebrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO
Prince George’s County homes constructed since the early 1990’s have a residential sprinkler system installed to save lives and protect property.  Therefore there are a large number of single family homes, in addition to commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings, that are equipped with these life-saving systems.  The Fire/EMS Department has documented hundreds of incidents since the law changed requiring residential sprinklers that demonstrate that lives have been saved and damage to property limited when fires have occurred.  Prince George’s County now has a very high percentage of structures protected by sprinkler systems.

Home, apartment, condos and commercial building owners and management companies should take the time now to ensure that sprinkler and plumbing systems are adequately protected against pipes freezing.  During long periods of below freezing temperatures exposed water-filled sprinkler pipes can freeze expanding the pipe to the point when it will break. Sprinkler pipes tend to freeze before other water pipes because the water is not moving. Most sprinkler systems are wet systems that contain water all the time.

When water freezes inside a sprinkler pipe or any exposed water pipe such as a hose bib or under cabinet plumbing, it creates an obstruction that can damage and break the plumbing pipes.  This freezing will also render sprinkler system useless in the event of a fire. As the ice expands, it increases the internal water pressure in the pipe and causes the pipe to burst.

Alternatively, the expanding ice can cause a pipe, fitting or sprinkler head to crack but the ice will block the flow of water while it is solid. In this case, the actual water damage will not be apparent until the ice melts and water flows out of the burst section.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

The best way to protect a residential fire sprinkler system and plumbing pipes from freezing is to provide sufficient insulation and maintain adequate heat during the winter months.   Insulation helps block the flow of heat or cold from one space to the next. Most plumbing pipes are within the walls or ceilings of a home. Cold air can enter these concealed spaces through small gaps in the exterior sheathing and insulation and find its way into pipe chases and soffits that focus the air directly onto the piping and accelerate freezing.

Under cabinet plumbing in your bathrooms and kitchen, especially if they are located up against an exterior wall, can freeze.  Keep the cabinet doors open so heat from your house will circulate through the cabinets.  Leaving the faucet open just a trickle will also help to prevent freezing plumbing pipes.

Hose faucets on a homes exterior can be turned off.  There should be a valve on the inside of the home near the location of your exterior faucet that can be easily tuned off.

In attics, piping should be as close to the ceiling as possible with insulation placed over the pipe.  If you inspect your plumbing pipes that are in the attic and you can see exposed pipes; they need to be insulated immediately to prevent freezing.

When sprinklers are required in unheated spaces such as attics or crawl spaces, the use of a dry system, or special dry sprinkler heads are required.

If a sprinkler pipe or plumbing pipe bursts ensure that the location of the water shut-off valve is known and the proper method to turn it off.  Contact a residential sprinkler professional or plumber immediately to initiate repairs.  It is recommended that a sprinkler system is tested and inspected on a periodic basis to ensure it is in proper working order to prevent against rupture and flooding.

Prince George's County DPW&T Activates Full Deployment for Winter Storm

Prince George's County: Subscribe MyPGC

Prince George's County Activates Full Deployment for Winter Storm Warning

For immediate release: 
2/16/2015 11:20:00 AM

For more information, contact: 
Carol Terry, Public Information Officer, DPW&T, 301-883-5600
LARGO, MD –Prince George’s County will activate a full deployment of personnel and contract services today at 3:00 p.m. in preparation for the snow and frigid temperatures forecasted for the Washington Metropolitan area.  Approximately 250 vehicles will monitor and plow the primary and major collector roadways first and then will move into the residential areas.

Forecasters are predicting the snow will start in our area this afternoon with a possible accumulation of 4-8 inches before ending on Tuesday morning.  Temperatures are expected to remain below freezing for this snow event with winds between 5 to 10 miles per hour.  

“With the slick roadway conditions expected with this winter storm, motorists are encouraged to stay off the road,” said Darrell Mobley, Director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation.  “If you must travel, please add extra travel time, stay alert and drive slowly; and stay well behind the salt trucks.”

County residents are requested to park on the even-numbered sides of residential streets or in their driveways.  Residents are also asked to shovel their driveways after plowing has occurred and to remove snow/ice from the sidewalks abutting their homes and businesses. 

To report road conditions, residents are encouraged to wait 12 hours after the precipitation has stopped before calling CountyClick at 311, the Snow Information Center at 301-350-0500 or going to the Snow Request Form on the County’s website at www.princegeorgescountymd.gov.

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PGFD Firefighters Battle Cottage City House Fire

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
mebrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

No sooner had the "ink dried" on the press release describing a busy Valentines weekend when firefighters fought yet another house fire.  At about 9:45 am dispatchers at the Public Safety Communications alerted firefighters to a house fire in Cottage City.  Along with the address of the fire, dispatchers stated multiple 911 calls were received reporting a house fire and that a person and a dog were trapped in the basement.

Firefighters from the Bunker Hill Fire/EMS Station 855 were the first to arrive at the 1 1/2 story single family home in the 3800 block of 37th Avenue reporting fire showing from the rear of the house and heavy smoke from the front.  The bulk of the fire was located in the rear portion of the house, including a detached shed which were well involved with fire.  As firefighters battled to knock the fire down other firefighters were searching the structure for anyone still inside despite the intense heat and blinding smoke.  Firefighters also extended hose lines to protect the houses on either side of the burning home from the radiant heat.

Both occupants had escaped the home safely prior to the fire departments arrival, however, a dog was found deceased inside the home.

Preliminary investigation indicates that it appears the fire started in or around the detached shed in the backyard with the fire extending into the house.  The fire extended throughout the interior of the house and attic.  Fire damage is significant if not total.  No injuries have been reported.  The cause of the fire is under investigation.  Fire loss estimates are still being tabulated.

The two displaced residents will be receiving assistance from the Office of Emergency Management Citizen Services Unit will be staying with friends.

Images provided courtesy of PGFD Deputy Fire Chief Ben Barksdale

The backyard with detached shed and rear of house.

The 1 1/2 story Cottage City home sustained significant fire damage.

Current Forecast, Warnings and Safety Tips for Presidents Day Snowstorm

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
mebrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE...UPDATED
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
509 AM EST MON FEB 16 2015

...WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 10 AM EST THIS
MORNING...
...WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM THIS EVENING
TO NOON EST TUESDAY...

* PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS...5 TO 10 INCHES.

* TIMING...SNOW IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP EARLY THIS EVENING AND
  CONTINUE INTO TUESDAY MORNING. HEAVIEST SNOWFALL IS EXPECTED
  THROUGH TONIGHT.

* WIND CHILL...AS LOW AS 10 BELOW.

* TEMPERATURES...4 TO 24 ABOVE.

* WINDS...NORTHEAST 5 TO 15 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 25 MPH.

* IMPACTS...THE COMBINATION OF GUSTY WINDS AND COLD TEMPERATURES
  WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE DANGEROUS WIND CHILLS THAT CAN QUICKLY
  CAUSE HYPOTHERMIA AND FROST BITE THROUGH THIS MORNING. BEGINNING
  THIS EVENING...ROADS WILL BECOME SNOW COVERED AND SLIPPERY WITH
  VISIBILITIES BEING REDUCED TO ONE HALF MILE OR LESS AT TIMES.
  THE COMBINATION OF SNOW COVERED ROADS AND LOW VISIBILITY WILL
  MAKE TRAVELING DANGEROUS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER
CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW
ARE FORECAST THAT WILL MAKE TRAVEL DANGEROUS. ONLY TRAVEL IN AN
EMERGENCY. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL...KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT...
FOOD...AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.

A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS
WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE LOW WIND CHILLS. THIS WILL RESULT IN
FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN.
IF YOU MUST VENTURE OUTDOORS...MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND
GLOVES.


The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Prince George's County. The men and women of your Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department want you to help us by staying safe yourself.  This is a storm everyone needs to stay informed, stay ready and stay safe.   Some of our highest concerns during a winter weather event is everyone driving, staying warm and power outages. Stay Informed, Stay Ready, Stay Safe

• Stay prepared by bringing out your emergency preparedness kit and having a supply of essential items (food, water, warming items, radios, batteries, flashlights, etc.) available.

• Stay informed by monitoring TV news, news radio, National Weather Service radios and the Internet. Important information may be broadcast that could affect you and your family. Ensure your cell phones and lap top computers are fully charged now – before the storm occurs.

• Stay safe by keeping fire safety and injury prevention a priority in your activities. It is important to remember that fire apparatus and ambulances will be slower to respond to your emergencies due to the weather and hazardous driving conditions. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms now to ensure they are working. In the event of an emergency, have an escape plan and call 911 immediately from a safe location. 

• If possible, stay indoors and off the roads at all costs. Reduced traffic on roadways will allow public works crews an opportunity to clear a path that can be used by first responders to handle emergencies. If you must venture outdoors, dress warm and in layers, wear a hat and gloves, and cover your face with a scarf. 

• A winter storm always has the potential to cause power disruptions as snow and ice will collect on power lines and tree branch’s that will then come in contact with power lines. Do not approach a downed power line – always consider downed power lines to be “live.” Restrict access to the downed lines and call 911. 

• Speaking of calling 911 – please – only call 911 for emergencies. Activity for Fire and EMS service could be high. If you do not have an emergency you should call 311 for assistance.
 
• In the event of power outages – use flashlights and battery powered lanterns for illumination – do not use candles. Ensure you have a battery powered radio. 

• Give space heaters space – keep space heaters at least 3-feet away from anything combustible like bedding, furniture, paper, etc. 


• Use only seasoned wood products in your fireplace and use extreme caution when disposing of fireplace ashes as they can remain hot for days after the fire is out. Dispose of ashes in a metal container outside and away from the house.

• Some winter storms produce enough snow and ice that will make it difficult to shovel, especially for those that have an existing heart condition or anyone over the age of 50. Limit shoveling to only a few minutes at a time, shovel smaller amounts, and take frequent breaks. 

• It is time to be a good neighbor – check on your senior citizen neighbors and ensure they have heat and food. Shovel their sidewalks and check on them frequently.

• Clear away snow from the fire hydrant on your street. If the fire hydrant is on your property; you are required to clear away the snow. 

• If you must drive – reduce your speed, increase the distance between you and the car in front of you, turn on your headlights, and do not be distracted by cell phones. Keep an eye out for pedestrians as they will venture out into the streets as sidewalks disappear.This information especially applies to 4-wheel drive SUV operators.

Finally, remember to think of our four-legged furry friends and keep your pets indoors. 

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Fire Department stands ready and prepared to provide the best emergency and non-emergency services available. We ask you to help us by preventing emergencies from ever occurring to avoid the need for us to have to respond to that emergency. Remember, Safety First ensures Everyone Goes Home.

Valentines Weekend Busy for PGFD and Public Safety Dispatchers


MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
mebrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

It was anything but sweet for public safety personnel working this past weekend and the outlook for remaining busy continues.  On Saturday, February 14th, an arctic blast brought about one inch of snow to Prince George’s County, Maryland, followed by rapidly dropping temperatures, sustained winds ranging from 20 to 30 mph and wind gusts around 50 mph.  Air temperatures were in the teens with wind chill temperatures feeling below zero.  Any snow that fell remained throughout the weekend and with the frigid temperatures became ice on sidewalks and roadways.

On Valentines Day Saturday call takers and dispatchers handled about 525 calls for service for the Fire/EMS Department with a high percentage of these incidents coming after 5:00 pm when the snow first started to fall.  The Fire/EMS Department routinely responds to an average of 350 calls per day.

Responses included motor vehicle crashes with injuries, trees down, wires down, automatic fire alarms and slips and falls in addition to the normal everyday requests for fire or EMS services.  An increase in calls for assistance with flooded conditions started to increase as water pipes froze and burst open in homes and businesses.

Firefighters fought two home fires on Saturday.  The first fire occurred in a 2-story split foyer home in the 6800 block of Robina Court in Temple Hills.   This fire was determined to be an accidental electrical fire that caused an estimated $100,00 in fire loss.  The second house fire occurred in the 4700 block of Brava Court in Fort Washington and determined to be an accidental electrical malfunction causing an estimated $20,000 in fire loss.  No civilian or firefighter injuries were reported.
4700 block of Brava Court in Fort Washington

Two ambulances were involved in minor crashes themselves on slick roads.  Fortunately, damage was minimal and no one was injured.

Sunday, February 15, continued with more of the same.  Fire/EMS units handled nearly 600 calls for service including, motor vehicle crashes with injury along with a steady stream of calls for flooded conditions and automatic fire alarms.

Winds remained a factor with wind chill temperatures remaining at dangerous levels despite bright sunshine throughout the day.  Firefighters remained busy handling the high volume of calls and battling fires.

At about 8:00 am, firefighters made quick work of a dryer fire in the 3300 block of Walters Lane in District Heights.  Fire was limited to $2,000 with no injuries or displacement,

At about 1:45 pm, firefighters battled a fire in a single family home in the 7000 block of Southlawn Drive in Oxon Hill.  This fire was started by a space heater igniting nearby combustibles.  Two firefighters were injured battling this fire; both were treated and released from area hospitals.  The fire caused about $100,000 in fire loss and the family of 3 adults, 3 children and 3 dogs were displaced.  A working smoke alarm alerted residents of the fire and all were able to escape safely.



Unit block of Maryland Park Drive in Capitol Heights.
At around 5:00 pm firefighters were alerted to a house fire in the unit block of Maryland Park Drive in Capitol Heights.  Fire/EMS units arrived on the scene to find smoke showing from the 2-story single family home.  The fire was extinguished within 30 minutes with no injuries being reported.  A malfunctioning fireplace was the cause of the fire with fire loss estimated at $100,000.  The family was displaced.

At about 1:30 am, Monday, February 16, fire/EMS units from the Riverdale area were alerted to a house fire in the 5500 block of Carters Lane in Riverdale.  Firefighters arrived with fire showing from the 1-story single family home.  No one was home and no injuries were reported. Fire loss is estimated at $100,000 and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

So far, Presidents Day Monday morning has been relatively quiet with the exception of numerous flooded conditions and investigations of automatic fire alarms.  There will not be much rest as a snowstorm with a potential of 4 to 8 inches of snow is forecast for later today into tomorrow.   Week long forecasts show that temperatures will not go above freezing for the remainder of the week. 

Citizens are encouraged to stay informed about the weather conditions and be ready with emergency kits fully stocked and to stay warm safely.

Stay Informed, Stay Ready and Stay Safe.