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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Surviving the Winter Storm - Fire/EMS Tips

When weather forecasters predict snowfall amounts in feet – you know that we could be in for a long winter weekend indoors. That is exactly what the men and women of your Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department want you to do – stay safely indoors. Fortunately this winter storm will occur over a weekend and will allow many to stay off the roads and remain indoors. We recommend that our citizens and residents:


• 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.

• Stay home and off the roads at all costs. Traveling will be near impossible on Friday evening and Saturday morning. By staying off the roads, you will allow public works crews an opportunity to clear a path that can be used by first responders to handle emergencies. Limit your fun outdoor activity until conditions improve. Playing outside in near blizzard conditions is not safe, or healthy. If you must venture outdoors, dress warm and in layers, wear a hat and gloves, and cover your face with a scarf.

Many are comparing this approaching winter storm to the December 2009 blizzard. Fire/EMS Department officials are concerned that this snowfall is expected to be of a wet and heavier texture as compared to December 2009, where it was a light and fluffy snow.

• A heavy wet snow will cause power disruptions as snow 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 are anticipated to be high

• 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 form 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.

• If you smoke a tobacco product – ensure it is properly extinguished in an approved container.

• A heavy and wet snow 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 and PDA’s. 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.

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Fire Department stands ready and prepared to provide the best 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.