Biddle's Corner

Lightning Safety

Written by L. James Biddle Friday, 01 August 2014 18:41

Motivated by recent periods of nature’s fireworks, the Newtown Square Fire Company has echoed the NOAA safety slogan, “When thunder roars, go indoors.” Following this message adds impact to the knowledge that no place outdoors is safe when thunderstorms and lightning are nearby. Chief Doug Everlof stressed, “A forgotten lightning fact stresses the lightning dangers can exist as far as 10 miles from the storm.”

One well-known fact states being indoors is far safer than outdoors, yet there continues to be indoor lightning dangers. For example, avoid using corded telephones and any device that is connected to electricity or plumbing, such as faucets, sinks, and baths. The dangers of lightning can follow wires and plumbing. Never remain on a porch if there is lightning.

When indoors, avoid windows, doors, and lying or leaning on interior concrete surfaces; the natural moisture in concrete becomes a possible “carrier” for lightning.

If going inside during a thunderstorm is not immediately possible, there are outdoor safety steps. Remain calm, and without hesitation get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water and leave elevated areas such as hills. Never seek shelter under a tree or a cliff or other natural overhangs.

Chief Everlof stressed, “One fact is so obvious that this safety suggestion may be forgotten, ‘Stay away from objects that conduct electricity such as barbed wire fences, power lines and their supporting towers, and windmills.’ Careful thinking can be a lifesaver.”

Golfers and others that cannot make their way to safety must avoid the temptation to lie flat on the ground. This once-popular suggestion places the heart near the ground and in the path of any lightning. The current safety suggestion states being “on all fours” is the way to avoid serious body damage if struck by lightning.

If in a metal-roofed vehicle, this protecting shell and the electrical insolation of the tires, dictates staying there. This same mandate is also important if any kind of wire makes contact with the vehicle. Newtown Square’s Fire Chief added, “This is a good time to use a cell phone and call 9 1 1. Describe your observations and follow all suggestions these trained helpers share.”



Charcoal Dangers

Written by L. James Biddle Wednesday, 30 July 2014 20:15

Cooking outdoors adds some good memories and tastes. In the same thought, Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof quickly added, "This seasonal food prep also has some very serious dangers." He stressed there are risks in both the method of cooking charcoal and gas as well as where the cooking takes place.

The first suggestion for safe charcoal cooking states these "old standby" cooking methods must only be used outdoors. Chief Everlof added, "The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Never in garage; this is an invitation to a fire, as well as illness from carbon monoxide. Also, keep children and pets away from the cooking area."

By lining the container with aluminum foil, there is a better reflection of the heat onto the items being cooked. At the end of the cooking and the briquettes are safely able to be discarded, this foil becomes a tool for disposal.

Before beginning the cooking as well as at the end of the outdoor meal preparations there are some simple safety steps. Begin with the removal of any grease or fat that may have accumulated on the cooking surfaces.

The common practice of starting charcoal cooking often begins with the use of a starting fluid. After a liberal application, let the fluid soak in. "After starting this cooking fire, NEVER add any additional fluid. A flame can race up the fluid stream and ignite the fluid in the container in an explosive-like flash," stressed Newtown Square's chief.

There are also electric charcoal starters. While they do not use a flame to ignite the charcoal, they have their own risks. Be sure to use an extension cord intended for outdoor use as well as having the proper rating.

When the cooking is done, the need for safety practices is far from finished. The seemingly safe, used briquettes hide their burning potential. Do not consider their disposal until there has been time and several applications of water.Then add even more time. When safe, wrap the briquettes in the foil lining the bottom of the device. The proper disposal includes the depositing of the spent charcoal in a mandatory metal container.

Charcoal cooking continues to be a favorite for many outdoor meal preparations. Chief Everlof reminds summer chefs that safety and fire prevention must be an ingredient in any cooking. If there is fire or if someone is injured, never hesitate to make the first response to either of these events is a callto 9 1 1.


Unique Storm Call

Written by L. James Biddle Friday, 25 July 2014 12:13

A darkening sky in the early evening of Wednesday, July 23 soon began to live up to weather forecasts.  As the rain began to fall and the combined cloud to cloud and cloud to ground lightning ushered in the local storm, there was a change in the focus of Newtown Square fighters. This new concentration was a 7:50 p.m. fire dispatch in the Newtown Towers Apartments, 3400 West Chester Pike, which altered the attention of firefighters from Newtown Square and other neighboring fire companies.

That alert message reported smoke on the first floor of the middle of three, six story residential structures. The “high life-risk” potential at this size of living area sent additional apparatus from the Broomall, Rose Tree, and Radnor fire companies for any needed rescue and firefighting.  Following Newtown Square Fire Company standard safety procedures, crews from the Media Fire Company were dispatch as the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT).

After this evening emergency, Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof explained the importance of an RIT, “If there were to be any emergency that prevents the rescuers from finishing their activities, this special collection of firefighters is there to ‘rescue the rescuers.’ “

As the apparatus was approaching the location of the reported fire, Chief Everlof radioed a message citing they should be prepared to do an evacuation.   This precautionary message was quickly reversed when Chief Everlof entered the living unit and saw the smoke was diminishing.

If an evacuation were to have been required, the heavy rain could have made that potentially risky.  The combination of experience and a prompt, accurate evaluation proved to provide the proper action.

Aiding in that evaluation was the source of the threatening smoke--forgotten items in an oven during what appears to have been a meal preparation.  Quick reporting of this threatening condition and an accurate response and evaluation by firefighters kept any risks to occupants to a minimum.

Chief Everlof commented, “As this call turned out, what could have developed into a serious event was quickly corrected.  Also, the help from our responding partners was appreciated.”

Do Not Live In An Oven

Written by L. James Biddle Wednesday, 23 July 2014 23:47

A newer style of cooking—the convection oven—has helped create shorter meal preparation times. While a desired kitchen tool, this cooking concept is not a fitting environment for humans.  Yet, many people who do not understand how to safely keep comfortable in summer temperatures often, unknowingly create a large, convection oven within their homes.

Simplistically, the convection oven’s cooking method is a closed, heated container and a fan which work together to create a way to “make things cook quicker.”

Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof warns of a hot weather parallel to this oven. A concept that is so dangerous it is a threat to life. He explained, “Far too many people who either lack air conditioning or revert to “fan-only” because of economic concerns are living with a serious danger—they are living in what is in reality a convection oven.”

This uninformed method of “trying to beat the heat:—one where there is no addition of fresh air because this air is hot—transforms a living area into a large and dangerous convection oven for humans and pet occupants.

What is at risk in a super-heated room is the occupant’s brain. This master computer for the body’s functions, when over-heated, experiences the loss of normal thinking and activity-control functions. Chief Everlof added, “Anyone in this kind of heat is seriously at risk—a risk that can result in death.”

In the super-hot times of the day, there are alternatives to staying in a dangerously over-heated home. By going to an air conditioned mall to window shop, a movie, or any cooler public area can be a safe, life-saving experience. “By going to a cooler place with new experiences is good health, both for the body and the mind,” added Chief Everlof.

Using shades, drapes, and blinds to help in lowering room temperature increases from the sun’s heat also aids in keeping an area cool. The Newtown Square Fire Company advises each of these activities can help cost-conscious individuals live within their budgets and help save their life.


In An Emergency, Follow The Rules

Written by L. James Biddle Thursday, 17 July 2014 22:36

Recently, area firefighters were welcoming the news of lives being saved by a residential Smoke Detector in Pennsylvania home. Hearing this news as it was being shared by the media, Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof commented, “Good news has finally become news.”

This good news was sadly replaced by a Philadelphia fire in a collection of row homes that that resulted in the loss of four young lives and forced eight families from their residences. While there were strong emotions from the neighborhood, the investigation centered on these deaths and the fire continues.

Documentation demonstrated the response of fire apparatus was timely. What is being unearthed is there appears to have been a delay in the first call to Philadelphia’s 9 1 1 Dispatch Center. The good intention of trying to extinguish a fire far too large for non-skilled efforts gave this small, initial fire an almost explosive head start.

A simple guideline from Chief Everlof can prove to be a life- and property saving suggestion. He shared, “The first step in any suspected emergency must be a call to 9 1 1. If a person collapsed or is found unconscious, make the call for help first, then initiate CPR, if needed. If there is either a threat of a fire, or an actual blaze, first call for help via 9 1 1. Then, if safe try to extinguish the fire. Never endanger yourself in trying to put out a fire.”

A simple rule that follows Chief Everlof’s meaningful suggestion is the following, “Always call for help before trying to provide help. Remember 9 1 1 is your best friend. Unless you are totally sure a call to 9 1 1 has been made, your call may prove to either be the first call or a call with additional, meaningful details.

Letter to the Editior: Fund Drive Solicitation

Written by L. James Biddle Wednesday, 02 July 2014 09:19


Following a recent Sunday worship service I was asked about the validity of a request for funds from an out-of-the-area telephone-based organization that was claiming to be collecting funds for “your local fire department.”  This well-meaning personal query has once more generated serious concerns within the staff of the Newtown Square Fire Company.

Telephone solicitation has never been a form of funding used by the local volunteers-unpaid professionals during their nearly century of service. The total funding of the Fire Company is provided by people we protect.  In simple terms, the anemic public and commercial/ professional response to the Newtown Square Fire Company’s current funding drive is generating serious concerns this year.

It appears from dialogue with newer Newtown Township residents they do not understand that the staff for their firefighting and rescue services train and serve as volunteers.  Volunteerism should not be seen as a “second-class” operation.

This form of dedicated community protection and other forms of volunteer is totally misunderstood in other parts of the world. These cultures can’t understand why tax funding and total salaried fire protection is not the standard.  With the anemic response to the 2014 Fund Drive, are there similar thoughts here in Newtown Square?

Just as residents in this historic community within William Penn’s New World dream must maintain their “home,” so must the Newtown Square Fire Company.  This organization’s aging structure houses a collection of very necessary life- and property saving apparatus.

There are similarities between individual’s vehicles and the Fire Company’s specialized vehicles.  Yours and ours are both well-served by preventive maintenance and repairs. Eventually, replacement.  When replacement costs are compared, the prices of firefighting apparatus are far greater.  Fire Apparatus have greater responsibilities, demands, functions, and complexities; these demands mean greater costs.

All of the requirements of your fire protection require funds. These funds only come from the annual funding appeals. The insufficient 2014 Fund Drive response endangers the life of the physical assets of the Newtown Square Fire Company. Also at risk is the training and education that guarantees professionalism. This professional identity is the foundation of the protection provided by the near-century community protection.

For our neighbors who have forgotten to fund the Newtown Square Fire Company your generous donation can be sent to the Fire Company’s processing area at PO Box 333 c/o Bryn Mawr Trust Bryn Mawr PA 19010.

Your support is needed to assure the protection of lives and property;

Yours in service,

L James Biddle, CLU

Serving since 1986



Work With Safety

Written by L. James Biddle Friday, 27 June 2014 10:35

It is not uncommon to add some house cleaning to the early summer activities.  Newtown Square Fire Company Chief Doug Everlof has shared some safety suggestions for these warm-weather projects. He stated, “Regardless of how urgent this seasonal cleaning process is thought to be, never neglect even the simplest of safety tips.”

Chief Everlof’s first safety reminder stated, “Always read the label on all cleaning supplies. Use the designed amount of the item and never mix more than one product.” Avoiding either of these guidelines can easily result in a dangerous event.

Newtown’s Fire Chief also offered an often forgotten safety reminder, “Always work with proper ventilation and protective items. These requirements are an often-overlooked health and fire safety necessities.”

Include appropriate planning before starting any household activities. Proper preparations and proper disposal of unwanted products or other items are key ingredient in safety. Before undertaking many projects, remember the wearing of eye protection devices is important. Even the smallest of particles can produce an injury and pain to the eyes.

Following two commonly cited Newtown Square safety warnings: (1) always read the full and (2) follow the printed instructions. Any other way is a form of taking shortcuts.”

Concluding this simple list of safety suggestions, Chief Everlof stressed, “As a substitute to ‘elbow grease,’ man’s inventive mind has created a collection of cleaning agents. Avid taking shortcuts by using the designated amount of a product and never mix multiple cleaning products. This attempt at trying to ‘hurry along’ any cleaning tasks” is extremely dangerous.

The Newtown Square Fire Company continues to stress that every household project must include safety. This advice applies outdoors, in the home, at work, and any recreation.


Cars In The Summer Can Be Deadly

Written by L. James Biddle Tuesday, 17 June 2014 15:57

As summer arrives each year, the Newtown Square Fire Company shares an often-forgotten fact of the warm weather.   The focus of an event that takes the driver out of the vehicle for “only a minute,” can easily promote a set of dangerous conditions for children and pets left in the “security of the vehicle.”

During that “only a minute,” a problem at a checkout counter or a problem with something as seemingly simple as an exchange of an item can unknowingly extend to more than that planned minute. During that time, the temperature within the vehicle begins to resemble an oven.

Research on the dangers of cars in the sun has produced some surprising results. One revelation was “cracking he windows ‘had little effect. The culprit in the rapid rise in the interior temperature was the color of the vehicle’s dash, seats, and other objects like the steering wheel.

Explaining this often unrecognized concept, Newtown Square firefighter Jim Biddle cited a study done by the San Francisco State University. In this June 16, 2014, updated paper, “Heatstroke Deaths of Children in Vehicles,” it explained the waves from the sun differ from the heat waves the radiated from the objects with the vehicle.

The author, Jan Null, CCM, added while   the rays of the sun do have some heating effect of their own, the differing, secondary radiation from a dark dashboard; the vehicle’s seats; or a child seat, however, can easily reach temperatures “in the range of 180 to over 200 degrees F.”  This form of radiation is very efficient of warming the air trapped inside a vehicle.

The following table supplied by a secondary study documents the temperatures that are created in a car in the summer.


TIME OF DAY  `                 OUTSIDE TEMP


9:00 am



9:30 am



10:00 am



10:30 am



11:00 am



11:30 am



12:00 pm



1:30 pm



2:30 pm



4:00 pm



Parents, grandparents, and other caregivers must remember that a vehicle is neither a babysitter, even “for a minute,” nor is it a play area. With this reminder, Chief Doug Everlof stressed, the lives of children or pets, are priceless. Never leave them in a vehicle for even a second. Vehicles are susceptible to theft and fires when seemingly unattended. Please don’t gamble with any life, any time of the year.”


Stop Driving Blind

Written by L. James Biddle Friday, 06 June 2014 16:34

A growing number of observers have joined in a campaign to educate Americans about the dangers of texting.  At first there was finger-pointing at the nation’s youth.   With an increased dependence on the use of handheld devices for both personal and business communications, there has developed a dependence upon these quick keyboard responses by Americans, young and old.

Earlier Newtown Square Fire Company reminders have acknowledged these dangers. These volunteers have joined other organizations in voicing safety campaigns in a national attempt to educate walkers, joggers, and drivers about the texting dangers. It is this simple loss of needed attention that disrupts normal concentrations.

At residential driving speeds, the eyes-off-the-road consequences of a two second reading of an incoming text message translates to driving blind for more than five car lengths. A child riding a bicycle or someone using a crosswalk during this blind-driving distance would be defenseless and seriously endangered.

Chief Everlof has asked drivers driving in Newtown Square to avoid preventable accidents through one simple step, “Do not text while driving.”

To help drivers prevent from becoming involved in texting accidents, Newtown Square’s Fire Chief offered a simple safety suggestion, “When driving, keep both thumbs on the steering wheel.Distracted driving can result in injuries or death.”

As Schools Ends Special Safety Needs Begin

Written by L. James Biddle Thursday, 05 June 2014 21:50

While the remaining school days may vary from community to community, the Newtown Square Fire Company and the Riddle Hospital/Newtown Township EMS emergency service providers are asking drivers to adopt summer driving habits immediately.  Drivers are reminded this new play freedom can easily result in children doing some dangerous things.

In trying to retrieve a ball or some other recreational item that has gone out into the driving area, playing children can easily forget the safety lessons taught by family and teachers. Careful drivers must constantly anticipate these dangerous play habits. Observing stop signs, attentive driving, and traveling at safe speeds that will permit unexpected, emergency stops become the foundation for safe summer driving.

Parents are asked to begin a renewed safety dialogue with their children before the end of the school year. Despite previous safety chats, the combined warm weather, no needing to set aside time for studies, and renewed neighborhood play habits can easily help children to forget previous safety chats at home.

Music becomes a contributor to the erosion of safety—for drivers, children, and adults. Higher music volume settings along with sound-deadening vehicle construction and air conditioning combine to prevent drivers from hearing playful sounds of children.

The use of ear-inserted sound providers comes close to hypnotizing young music lovers. It is not uncommon to see young walkers and jogging adults walking out into traffic. The human body is no match for weight of a vehicle.

Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof stresses, “As the ending of the school year approaches, drivers are reminded of a once-common roadside sign, DRIVE SAFELY.   WE HAVE MANY CHILDEN, BUT NONE TO SPARE.”


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