Biddle's Corner

Seasonal Simple Safety Steps

Written by L. James Biddle Monday, 12 December 2016 16:23

A good way to begin a day is with a hearty breakfast.  A staple of many morning meals is toasted bread or bagel.  Also a toaster that is reluctant to “release a piece of toasted bread becomes a dangerous safety threat.  The Newtown Square Fire Company, a 100-plus year community protection organization began it toaster safety suggestion with a simple statement, “Avoid possible life-threatening dangers and a possible dangerous fire through the simple ‘remove the danger by unplugging the toaster’.”

Newtown Square’s Fire Chief Doug Everlof added, “Far too often, there are reports of hungry toast makers trying to dislodge a piece of stubborn of bread or a bagel by using a fork, a knife or some other available metal kitchen device, all without removing the electrical danger. This is simply done by removing the appliance’s plug from the wall receptacle. Once the electrical danger is eliminated, there are several simple ways to retrieve the item being toasted.’

Using the commercially available, non-metallic tools constructed for the safe removal of jammed food items lodged in the toaster is far better than using metal eating or cooking utensils.  Always be gentle in this removal process.

Echoing his safety concerns from previously shared comments, Deputy Fire Chief George Guyer IV volunteered, “Even when a removal of food is done with an ‘unplugged toaster’ there are other dangers.  By using any rigid removal tool, the unseen, obscured heating wires can be moved from internal supports. When the toaster is used after the unrecognized, unintentional moving of the heating elements can either make unwanted alteration to pattern of the heating wires or an unwanted heating wire contact with the metal case of the toaster. “

Both events can be dangerous. The changes in the wiring patterns can result in fire. The unseen contact by any of the dislodged heating wires and the metal shell of the toasting device can result in the possibility of an electric shock or produce a fire.

Commenting on the combined activities of the holiday period, Chief Doug Everlof added, “Simple, but effective safety steps are key ingredients in both fire and injury prevention. This is the time of the year for fun and family, not for injuries or fires.  Please include safety in all of the family’s activities.”


Saturday Night Fire

Written by L. James Biddle Monday, 12 December 2016 10:45

As many residents of Newtown Square’s Larchmont neighborhood were either thinking about bedtime or watching late Saturday night television on December 10, a series of events altered lives and properties on both Northwood and Barren Road.   Calls to the Delaware County Fire Dispatch at approximately 11:16 p.m.  told of afire whose flames were visible more than a block away.

As apparatus of Newtown Square’s and Broomall’s Fire Companies approached the reported Northwood, near Dutton Drive location, their radio messages echoed the initially reported information supplied to the Delaware County 9 1 1   These initial fire ground reports added the heavily involved fire was in a building located at rear of the property,  

This on-scene report validated the initial dispatch including fire crews and apparatus from Upper Providence’s Rose Tree Fire Company and a specialty-service Rapid Intervention Crew from the Media Fire Company.  Also included were medical crews from Riddle Hospital. As these initial firefighters approached the fiercely burning structure, they found the intensity of the seemingly well-fueled fire had ignited a parked car and had begun to melt the siding of the adjacent residence.

This heat and flames from this building at the rear of the Northwood property across the property border to ignite a nearby building belonging to a Barren Road neighbor.

The amount of post-extinguishing activities, including overhaul, also included working with the Newtown Township Fire Marshal in his routine investigation. These responsibilities prompted a cooperative request for the dispatch of a ladder truck from Haverford Township’s Brookline Fire Company and a pumper from West Chester, Chester County.  While staged to respond from the Newtown Square Fire Company, they performed cover-up services for emergencies in both Newtown and Marple Townships.


Christmas Activities and Safety

Written by L. James Biddle Monday, 05 December 2016 16:27

Christmas is a time for church events and services, the annual December 4, St. Albans tree lighting ceremony, and the two nightly visits to Newtown Township by Santa.  The 2016 visits, as shown in the accompanying map, will begin at dusk on Friday, December 16 and Saturday, December 17.

In keeping with generations of appropriate safety standards, children, accompanied by adult supervision, are reminded to never go into the streets. Local firefighters, acting as Santa’s helpers as thy dispense the candy accompanying our North Pole visitor.

Chief Doug Everlof, once a holiday recipient, reminds parents, grandparents and other adult helper of the firefighter’s reminder, “Please stay on the lawn. To assure safety, we will come to the children.”

In another Christmas theme, the firefighters have several holiday safety suggestions.   Extension cords, both those used for inside and outside lighting sets must never be overloaded. As the final stages of planning and installation, some base math and easy math must be used. Add each of the individual electric demand figures, expressed in watts or amps, and never exceed the safety figures on the supplying extension cord.

This safety standard applies for both interior and outdoor lighting sets.   In a special indoor safety reminder, Chief Everlof stressed, “Never run any extension cords under rugs; these cords must never be nailed in place; a misplaced nail can be an invitation to afire-stating short.”

Newtown Square firefighters are hopeful no one will even think of the once-ancient holiday practice of using lighted candles on Christmas tree.  Even those trees properly secured in a safe, water-containing device will burn when near a flame.

Candles, both for the decorations and aroma, are a danger that must be given special, safety attentions Keep children and pets away from any burning candles.   “It is wise to have pets secured in a room that can be secured when a candle or candles or burning.

If the seasonal temperatures permit, it could be a fireplace may add to the festive mood.  Just like candles, fireplace safety demands “anything that has burned” is properly extinguished before bedtime. To be doubly safe, have two people make this safety check.

Basic Emergency Tools

Written by L. James Biddle Thursday, 01 December 2016 13:39

In the event of an emergency prompted by natural events or any event that results in a family or neighborhood isolation or loss of utilities, families must be prepared to meet these challenges.  The Newtown Square Fire Company has prepared recommendations for basic survival is a basic collection of Emergency supplies.  This collection should be for a minimum, three-day emergency.

To meet the challenges of emergencies, being prepared and being calm are key ingredients in assuring safety. The most basic life-sustaining item is water.

To be basically prepared for a period of isolation, the Newtown Square Fire Company suggests a minimum of one gallon of bottled water per person per day. Deputy Fire Chief George Guyer IV has suggested using a collection of smaller, individual bottles for this life sustaining water.

Food supplies should comprise of items that do not require either cooking or refrigeration.  The nutrients are of greater importance than methods of preparations. With this concept in mind, a list of foods might include, in part, the following:

  • Canned goods (for example: meat, tuna, soup, fruit, vegetables)
  • Food bars (for example: protein, cereal, granola)
  • Infant supplies (formula, food, and diapers)

Remember to include a manual can opener.

First aid supplies, while not limited to the following, should include:

  • Bandages of assortment of sizes and types.
  • Antiseptic spray or antibiotic ointment
  • Aspirin and non-aspirin pain relievers
  • Family medical supplies, well labeled, and copies of prescriptions

Flashlights and extra batteries Radio with extra batteries

Cell phone extending battery and/or solar cell charger

Matches in water-proofing container and/or a lighter

Convenience Items:
Paper plates and cups, plus plastic forks, knives, and spoons
Plastic storage containers and sealable bags
Toilet paper and facial tissues

Personal care items:
Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss
Soap, antibacterial wipes
Feminine supplies

Do not forget to included ideas and supplies for the family pets.  The local firefighters remind residents to include a minimum three-day supply of pet food and adequate water for these important family companions.


Shelter-in-Place Option

Written by L. James Biddle Wednesday, 30 November 2016 08:41

A collection of events has prompted Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof to share some emergency suggestions were prompted by recent events.  He began by saying, “Many followers of both recent television and radio news may have been introduced to a form of emergency response that is growing in effectiveness and acceptance. “

The event Chief Everlof was citing was a collection of Monday, November 28, mid-morning events that occurred on the sprawling Columbus, Ohio campus of The Ohio State University. A forced vehicle accident resulting in pedestrian injuries followed eight stabbings by what was described as a “butcher knife,” became responsible for a growing response to community emergencies—Sheltering-In-Place.

Ohio State University students returned to the Columbus campus following a Thanksgiving exodus and those students who experienced the emotions of the Saturday, November 26 double-overtime, 30-27 victory over arch rival University of Michigan returned to the campus with an academic mission. With the upcoming, mid-December final exams for the school’s Autumn Semester, OSU students were well focused until a collection of student injuries at a 9:52 a.m. campus incident.

The sound of gunshots on campus spawned University official to declare a Shelter-In-Place statement.   As has become favored, a well-advised practice for academic installations, this safety-practice incorporates seeking safety within the nearby, normally occupied structure.   This concept contrasts with the relocation to a possible remote, large evacuation site.

Shelter-In Place—often also known as a “lockdown”—is being viewed as an increasing effective way to address emergencies.  Joining in a Newtown Square Fire Company endorsement of the wisdom as this being a possible emergency response, are county, state, and federal organizations. Having the means to keep informed becomes a key ingredient in decision-making by person who may need instructions.  The use of cell phone communications—both voice and text, interior building communications, and the local electronic media all become important ingredients in the selection of safety choices.

Newtown Square’s fire chief explained, “National evaluation states there are instances where it can be wise to seek safety within the building you already occupy, rather than to evacuate the area or seek a community emergency shelter.”

Included in a list of risks are those that includes chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants.  This class of risks can be an accidental or an intentional release. If this class of dangers is known, people at risk should select a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there.

Sheltering in Place involves closing all household doors, windows and vents and taking immediate shelter in a readily accessible location that puts as much physical protection and indoor air and/or radiation shielding-mass between individuals and the outside hazardous.  This may include a basement or centrally located medium to small room.

If the emergency involves a school, a secured classroom is often a wise choice.  As was shown in recent television news, the fortress collection of chairs and tables barricading the room’s door became what appeared to be a sturdy defense.

In another type of emergency—one involving air contamination or radiation dangers—wise safety steps may include making the fortress as airtight as possible by shutting off all ventilation/HVAC systems. Additional protection can be achieved by a creative sealing the shelter's doors and windows from all outside air contaminants with damp towels, or if available, plastic sheeting and adhesive tape.

National analysis has shown Shelter-In-Place effectiveness has been evaluated by experts and it has been shown that proper sealing can make a substantial difference to a normal home shelter.  It has been found to be at least twice as effective against a host of airborne substances when compared against simply staying inside and not implementing some form protection the military, “Shelter-in-Place" is comparable to "buttoning up" and has proved life-saving in certain nuclear fallout instances.

A key ingredient that has general backing is the concept to Run from the Danger, Hide from the source of the risk, and if confronted and if there is alternative—Fight for your life and those of others

Winter Safety

Written by L. James Biddle Thursday, 24 November 2016 11:45

The prolonged warmer temperatures that hint of the last days of summer or early fall can easily prompt a dangerous, seasonal neglect to the safety and efficiency of the home’s heating system.  Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof reminds residents, “A simple act of forgetfulness or procrastination because the weather is not yet “winter-like” can prove to be unhealthy and dangerous.

The longer the hesitation to arrange for a heating system checkup, the greater the risk that a scheduled, professional inspection and any necessary repairs may not be able to be accomplished before the prolonged home heating begins.   In addition to the possibility of increased operating cost, the motivation to assurance there will be no dangers of carbon monoxide leaks can all be motivators.

Chief Everlof has reminded residents, “The potential life-threats from carbon monoxide—the silent, odorless potential killer—should be the only nudge that anyone should ever require to make sure a heating system is working properly and can be dependable and safe for the current heating season.“ As a safety ‘parachute,’ Newtown Square Fire Chief added a reminder that properly installed and working CO Monitors should also be installed near each of the resident’s sleeping areas.

Prevention in all the many aspects of daily living is a key element in each of the many facets of community protection that are routinely addressed by the Newtown Square Fire Company.  Each of these activities are the daily responsibilities of the firefighters and officers that are the Newtown Square Fire Company.  These dedicated neighbors are not alone in this effort. Chief Everlof added, “Safety must also be addressed by the entire community we protect.”


Understanding Winter Words

Written by L. James Biddle Wednesday, 23 November 2016 19:33

As the calendar approaches the beginning of the 2016-2017 winter, television weather reports are showing the wrath of winter.  Winds and the northern region’s snows have already become a media focus. Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof volunteered, “The strength of the winds and the potential damages they may produce are topics the Fire Company wants to share with its neighbor.”

Chief Everlof stressed there are special precautions that must be followed when driving in high winds.  These guidelines include slowing down when faced with the hazards associated changes in wind speeds. They also include the elimination of all distractions, and keep both hands on the steering wheel. Additionally, savvy wind-driving skills demand staying away from trucks, buses, and any vehicles that are towing trailers.

In addition to driving suggestions, drivers must also be aware of growing standards of wind and weather communications.  Wind-based information now shares the concept of an Advisory, a Watch, and a Warning.  These wind-related standards can now join their counterparts in other weather conditions

High Wind Advisory This will be issued when winds are strong enough to cause difficulty for those outside but not likely to cause widespread damage. Advice to be continually attentive.

High Wind Warning This will be issued when damaging or life-threatening winds are currently occurring or will be occurring soon.  This is a time to take action.

High Wind Watch This will be issued when it’s possible for damaging or life-threatening winds to occur. This is a time to put into action planned steps of preparation.

Concluding this primer of storm-related concerns, Chief Doug Everlof also added observations about another series of possible wind related dangers, “Regardless of where any of us may be when a wind storm occurs, remember to be on the look-out for flying debris, downed power lines and fallen trees and branches."

Grab for the Phone - Do It Right

Written by L. James Biddle Tuesday, 15 November 2016 13:47

The unfortunate response by a supportive spouse or caring family members when they suspect a family member may be having a stroke is to rush the victim to the nearest hospital.  Commenting on this erroneous response, Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof promptly stressed, “Avoid the temptation to reach for the car keys:  grab for the phone instead!”

Using a phone to call 9 1 1 and seeking professional, medical aid assures a prompt, professional diagnosis of the type of stroke and the administration of immediate, effective medical intervention. None of these life-saving steps and quality-of-life restoration practices can be performing in a family vehicle.

Adding to this primer, Newtown Square Deputy Fire Chief George Guyer, IV   RN, NREMT-P volunteered the simple, yet proven steps of stroke recognition.

It was demonstrated through a simple acronym—F A S T

This F A S T acronym was developed in the UK in 1998 by a group of stroke physicians, ambulance personnel, and additional medical providers. It quickly became an integral part of a training package for ambulance staff. The use of F A S T was created to expedite administration of intravenous medical aid.

By remembering the individual definitions of each of the letters in F A S T becomes an important step in evaluation process.

Facial drooping: A section of the face, usually only on one side, that is drooping and hard to move. This can be recognized by a crooked smile.

Arm weakness: The inability to raise one's arm fully

Speech difficulties: An inability or difficulty to understand or produce speech

Time: If any of the symptoms above are showing, time is of the essence; call the emergency services at once

In a reminder, Chief Everlof stressed, “Please remember the meaning of F A S T as well as the instruction to always grab for the phone and never bow to the temptation to even thinking of going for the keys.”


Leaves Can Be Dangerous

Written by L. James Biddle Sunday, 30 October 2016 17:08

Anyone taking rail transportation is aware of the dangers of wet leaves on the tracks. Equally dangerous are wet leaves waiting on the street for cars to attempt a stop and possibly slide right through the intersection.

Just as adjustments are made in train travel for commuters there should be adjustments made in driving at this time of the year. A waxy coating on the surface of fallen leaves and moisture from the rain or early-morning dew combine to produce a road surface that is as slippery as ice.

One of the annual rituals of the autumn season is the pick-up of the piles of leaves that have been raked to the grassy area between the sidewalk and the curb.

Be careful on wet leaves!

Training Was Validated

Written by L. James Biddle Tuesday, 20 September 2016 09:02

During the morning drive time and prior to the start of Monday’s September 19 school day there were activities that became a rewarding validation for Newtown Square Fire Company’s outreach programs.  Commenting of the endorsement of the local Fire Company’s Fire Prevention program, Lieutenant Bill Rankin volunteered, “The lessons of ‘getting out alive’ and general fire prevention were proven this morning.”

Even though the school’s day had not officially begun, there were early bird students and school personnel at the Marple Newtown School District’s Culbertson Elementary School. Exiting the structure, located in the 3500 block of Goshen Road, there was an orderly evacuation into the morning’s rain.  They uniformly sought sanctuary in a nearby covered, haven of safety.

For years, there has been a long-standing bond between Culbertson’s faculty, administration and students and the local firefighters. In addition to the classroom style safety and evacuation training, it was not uncommon for participation in these visits by the principal and faculty members in outdoor activities.

Following a search of the facility and finding no emergency, the adults and students who were outdoors were permitted to returned to the school.  This was not a practice in being safe; it became a practical example of previously learned lessons working well.


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