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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Residential and Commercial Building Sprinkler System Freezing Prevention Tips

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.

Friday, December 29, 2017

PGFD Recommendations for 2018 New Year Resolutions

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

Are you having difficulty in choosing your 2018 New Year Resolutions???  The career, volunteer and civilian men and women of the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) have a few ideas for you.  We recommend you adopt the TOP TEN Fire/EMS Department Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors Resolutions for the New Year.  These resolutions will help you stay compliant with the new 2018 State of Maryland Smoke Alarm Law and the County CO detector law.  These are listed in no particular order, as they are all important.

I will install 10-year, tamper proof with hush feature smoke alarms and CO detectors on every level of my home.  

I will check my smoke alarms and CO detectors on the first day of every month by pushing the test button on the front cover and listen for a warning signal.  No sound = no protection.  Not working?? Replace with a new 10-year smoke alarm or CO detector.

I will check the manufacture date on my battery powered and hard-wired smoke alarms and CO detectors.  If they are close to or have exceeded the 10-year life span I will replace with a new models.  

If I have a 9-volt powered alarm that is within 10 years of its manufacture date I will continue to provide fresh batteries twice a year and test monthly.  Once the life span of 10-years is up I will replace with a new 10-year smoke alarm.  The day you provide a fresh battery should be consistent each year; your birthday, your spouses birthday, your oldest child’s birthday, a holiday, change-your-clock/change your battery.

I will designate one family member to be responsible for testing smoke alarms and CO detectors monthly.  Everyone in the family should be made aware of the responsible person and reminders should be encouraged.  Regardless of the type of alarm you have – test the alarm on the first day of every month.

I will replace my smoke alarm and CO detector if it is 10 years old and than every 10 years after.  A properly maintained smoke alarm works hard to protect you and your family every second of every day.  The alarm wears out and is not as reliable as it was when you first installed it; replace it every ten years.

I will include my smoke alarms and CO detectors when I perform household cleaning.  Use a vacuum wand or clean rag to remove any dust that may have accumulated.  Dust particles may affect the timely sounding of the alarm.

I will install working 10-year, tamper proof with hush feature, smoke alarms and CO detectors on every level of my home.  Most importantly is to have one in hallways outside of sleeping areas.

I will install a working 10-year smoke alarm in bedrooms where my family members sleep with their bedroom doors closed.

I will know and ensure my family knows what to do when a smoke alarm sounds – “get down, get low, get out.”  Have a family escape plan and practice it to ensure everyone knows two ways out of every room in the house and designate a meeting place outside when 911 can be called in safety.

A working smoke alarm provides you an early warning of a fire in your home.  Your chances of surviving a fire in your home is increased by 50% by having a working smoke alarm.   Having a family home escape planned and practiced increases your chances of survival even more.

A working smoke alarm allows home occupants to escape safely and make a quick notification to the fire department equating to an earlier arrival and mitigation of the fire before it is allowed to spread thereby saving property and helping firefighters to stay safe and go home after every call.

CO detectors are required by law if your home uses a gas to fuel your heat or to cook, has a fireplace and/or an attached garage.  CO detectors are required on every level of your home.

The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department resolves to continue to provide the very best in Fire and Emergency Medical Services to our citizens, residents and visitors.  We vow that if you call and say you need a new smoke alarm that we will come to your house and install a working smoke alarm for you and your family; free of charge.  Call 311 and ask about our smoke alarm program.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Freezing Temperatures - Staying Healthy and Safe Advice

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

Freezing temperatures apparently will usher the week prior to our 2018 New Year and beyond this year.  We would like to remind everyone that staying warm in your home without keeping "Safety First" is one of the leading causes of residential fires.  Cold weather also could be unhealthy if you venture outdoors unprepared.

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) is reminding everyone that home fires are more prevalent in cold weather than in any other time of the year. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires.  This reminder involves the safe use of space heaters, general heating safety tips, hypothermia and frostbite prevention.

Stay Safe

The civilian, career and volunteer men and women of the Fire/EMS Department want to remind everyone that fire safety and prevention are especially important during times of cold temperatures.  “Temperatures drop and fires increase,” said Prince George's County Fire Chief Benjamin M. Barksdale.  According to NFPA statistics space heaters account for about one third of the home heating fires yet more than 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths.  The Winter Residential Building Fires report released by USFA in 2010, reports an estimated 108,400 winter residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 billion in property loss.  Most notably, cooking and heating are the top causes of fires during cold weather. 

“The winter season brings the highest number of home fires than any other time of year,” said Fire Chief Barksdale. “Each winter season, home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating fires. Fire safety and injury prevention must not be lost in an effort to stay warm. Stay warm and do so safely.  Safety First ensures everyone goes home.” 

The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department recommend the following safety tips for space heaters. 

Electric Space Heaters

• Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). 

• Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. 

• Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. 


• Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater.

• Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.  Turn off at night or whenever you sleep. - - Never use an extension cord with space heaters - plug directly into wall socket.

Using a kerosene heater???  Never refuel indoors.  Remove the kerosene heater outdoors, turn off and wait for it to cool down before refueling and only use the correct type of fuel.

General Heating Tips     

•    Furnaces, fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and checked each year by an appropriate professional prior to using.  Clear away any clutter from these heating devices, at least 3 feet away.

•    Only use seasoned wood in fireplaces, never use ignitable liquids to start a fire and do not overload your appliance.

•    The 3-foot rule also applies to furnaces and fireplaces.  No combustibles items within 3 feet of these heating appliances.

•    Dispose of fireplace ash into a metal container and store outdoors away from structures on a concrete surface.  Fireplace ash can ignite a fire days after they have been discarded.

Finally, ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are working by pushing the test button on the front cover.  If you do not hear an audible warning, replace your alarm with a new 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature alarm.  Having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. A working CO detector will protect you and your family from deadly "silent killer" fumes that may be building up in your home.  Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family. 
Residents of Prince George’s County can contact our "Safety First" smoke alarm program by calling 311.  A firefighter will install a working smoke alarm in your home free of charge. 

 For additional safety info from the United States Fire Administration,
Stay Healthy

With colder temperatures in the forecast for this week, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS and Health Department are joining in a common voice to remind our residents to avoid serious health problems that can occur due to prolonged exposure to cold weather. The two most common conditions are hypothermia and frostbite.

 “All residents must take precautionary actions as a primary defense against injuries and illness resulting from extreme cold weather conditions,” said Chief Barksdale. “When exposed to cold weather, our bodies lose heat faster than it can produce it, resulting in bodily injury, illness, and even death.”

The Fire/EMS Department advises all residents to check on your elderly relatives and neighbors to ensure they have adequate heat and protection from the cold.  Limit the amount of time your pet spends outside.  Bring your pets inside when outdoor temperatures are freezing cold; pets can also contract hypothermia very quickly.

Hypothermia is one of the serious health problems that can be caused by exposure during cold weather.  If a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees, immediately seek medical attention.

In mild cases the symptoms include:

•    Uncontrollable shivering
•    Pale and cold skin

Other more serious signs include:

•    Confusion or sleepiness
•    Slurred speech
•    Shallow breathing
•    Weak pulse
•    Stiffness in the arms or legs
•    Or, poor control over body movements

In the case of serious symptoms, contact the victim’s doctor or call 911.

The homeless are a particular concern when there are freezing temperatures.  If you know of a homeless person that could use an offer of assistance to protect themselves from hypothermia, consider contacting the Homeless Hotline at 888-731-0999.

In any case where hypothermia is suspected, until help arrives or the person is seen by a doctor, move the person to a warm room, warm the body with dry layers of blankets or clothing, and give warm beverages.

Frostbite refers to actual freezing and subsequent destruction of body tissue which is likely to occur any time skin temperature gets much below 32F.  The areas most likely to freeze are toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the tip of the nose.

Individual at risk for frostbite include those with impaired circulation, the elderly, the very young and anyone who remains outside for prolonged periods.  The danger increases if the individual becomes wet.

Symptoms of frostbite include:

•    Gradual numbness;
•    Hardness and paleness of the affected area during exposure,
•    Pain and tingling or burning in affected area following warming; and
•    Possible change of skin color to purple


Follow these tips to weather the winter in a healthy way:

•    Cover your head.  You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head.
•    Wear several layers of lightweight, loose fitting clothing.  The air between the layers acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
•    Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect lungs from direct, extremely cold air.  Cover your ears and lower part of your face as well.
•    Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves.  The close contact of fingers helps to keep your hands warm.
•    Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks.
•    Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes to keep your feet warm and dry.

Finally, areas of water may start to freeze over during this cold spell.  Never venture out onto frozen bodies of water.  Consider these areas to be thin ice and avoid at all costs.  This information includes pets as many humans get themselves into trouble venturing out to retrieve pets that have fallen into freezing water.  All frozen areas of water should be considered “thin ice” and “extremely dangerous.” 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Message From Fire Chief Barksdale

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas Day filled with love, joy, and laughter. As this holiday comes to a close I want to thank D shift and the many Volunteers who served our residents and visitors on this special day. I also appreciate all of those who turned in leave or made trades so that your co-worker could celebrate Christmas with their loved ones.  We indeed have so much to be grateful for.  I hope everyone took time to reflect how fortunate we are to work and volunteer in a profession that provides so much. Please continue to be stay safe for the remainder of the shift. 

Benjamin M. Barksdale, Fire Chief

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Public Safety Deliver Holiday Gifts to Residents Displaced by Fire

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

On Saturday, December 23, Prince George's County Fire Chief Ben Barksdale led a contingent of public safety personnel to greet the displaced residents from a fire that occurred earlier in the week.  The meeting was held at the Silver Hill Fire/EMS Station 829 on Old Silver Hill Road.

On Tuesday at around 7:00 am, firefighters responded to Curtis Drive and encountered heavy fire conditions in a garden style apartment.  The fire response required 2-alarms to complete extinguishment and overhaul the building.

The same group of firefighters and medics that battled the fire that morning along with Public Safety Toys for Tots, Red Cross-National Capital Region, Fire Chiefs Community Advisory Council and the Silver Hill Volunteer Fire Department came together to provide the 21 adults and 12 children from 12 apartments to a bit of Holiday Cheer.  Each child recede a bag of toys and each family unit received gift cards from the Community Advisory Council and the Silver Hill Volunteer Firefighters.

Courtesy of Kentland VFD