Biddle's Corner

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.


Wall Outlet - Electric Safety

Written by L. James Biddle Monday, 19 September 2016 14:24

During a fire station discussion session, a Newtown Square firefighter shared a recently overheard a shocking statistic.  The message shared told of a preventable event—curious fingers and objects entering the unprotected openings in wall electric outlets.  Recent accident figures have reported more than 2400 severe injuries occur each year because of curious fingers and toys making contact will the common installation of wall outlets. Making contact with the receptacle’s 110 volts of alternating current electricity can result in death.

This message reminded the local firefighter of an observation made at a large, regional shopping mall.  During this shopping visit he was surprised and pleased at seeing plastic safety inserts in all of the wall-mounted electric receptacles installed in the massive, indoor shopping facility.  The observant Newtown Square firefighter volunteered, “Why can’t more corporate-based managements adopt this concept.

Informed parents have long-practiced electric wall outlet safety.   A similar family warning frequently shared by the Newtown Square Company has been a reminder telling of this safety practice with a focus on grandparents, close relatives and family friends.

This important message is worthy of being repeated.  Adults must remember they and children view similar objects differently.  The normal, heightened curiosity of toddlers results in a magnet-like attraction of small fingers and toys to the dangers hidden in the “face-like image” of wall mounted electric receptacles.

There is an important question that needs an answer, “Why haven’t more, commercial establishments begun a program of installing the simple plastic insert-plugs in their wall outlets?”. A possible solution came from a comment from one of the long-tenured members of the Newtown Square Fire Company may prove to be a way for recognition.  He shared a comment taught by his grandfather, “The squeaking hinge gets the oil. “A petition signed by members and families of any kind of neighborhood or service organization will provide greater input and impact than a single person or family.

A potential motivation for commercial establishments to achieve safety for each of their accessible electric outlets could be the suggestion of their creating a press release telling of their new safety policy.  Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof volunteered, “The success of this simple, low-cost effort is a fitting way for a merchant to achieve a new and lasting form of customer loyalty by parents, and in time, the loyalty of the children the parents are striving to protect.”

Smoke Detector Changes

Written by L. James Biddle Tuesday, 13 September 2016 07:23

The question, “Should Smoke Detectors be in our homes?”  has only one answer: YES.  But. In reality, there are numbers of homes with either no Smoke Detectors or open covers showing no batteries installed. Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof reminded members of the Fire Company’s community, “It is doubtful if anyone can disagree with serious consequence of not exiting a home or apartment if there is a fire in the residence.”

If there are any Smoke Detector doubters, they are reminded that the new, 10-year battery-powered Smoke Detectors are a wise and affordable form of “peace-of-mind.”  They offer a contemporary replacement for the former styles of protection. These long-life battery-powered Watch Dog devices are readily available and easy to install.  Over their prolonged life, these new Smoke Detectors—with their decade-long battery life—help in avoiding the problem of “no protection because of forgetfulness.”  In the older style Smoke Detector, forgetting to at least annually replace the rectangular battery contributed to a no-working device

If there are any doubts, occupants are advised that the new, 10-year battery-powered Smoke Detectors are a wise and affordable form of “peace-of-mind.”  These long-life, battery-powered Watch Dog devices are readily available and easy to install.  Over their prolonged life, these new Smoke Detectors—with their decade-long battery life avoid the problem of “no protection because of forgetfulness. In the older style Smoke Detector, forgetting to annually replace the rectangular battery will end that style of Smoke Detector’s life of protection.

Newtown Square’s fire chief has elected to offer another timely suggestion. Chief Everlof has volunteered the record-setting, high temperatures of this year may have for some contributed to changes in ways to keep cool—installing ceiling fans.  In addition to the reduction in health dangers, these comfort-makers also become a reason to make possible changes to assure continual family fire safety.

When the ceiling fan is working, there exists a potential danger. The moving blades of the fan can produce an air pattern that prevents smoke from a fire from activating a ceiling-mounted Smoke Detector.  In one air flow direction, there is produced a layer of stagnant air that becomes trapped near the ceiling.  In the other direction of air flow, the pattern of moving also helps neutralize the safety benefits of Smoke Detector mounted on the ceiling.

A solution to this problem, regardless of air flow direction, is offered by the Newtown Square Fire Company. The protection provided by these technical watch dogs can be assured by installing on a side wall, a minimum of 12-inches lower than the ceiling.  Prior to determining the relocation installation, Chief Everlof has volunteered a suggestion, “This is a good time to install a new, Smoke Detector, one having a ten-year battery.  Doing so at this time becomes an assurance of an extended period of life-saving safety.”

In a parallel protection topic borrowed from the potential problems associated “trapped air,” Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof reminded residents of the dangers of having a Smoke Detector installed at the top of stairs leading from the basement up to the first floor.  A closed door at the top of stairs, will in time, produce a long column of trapped or stagnant air.  This compacted air will prevent the smoke from the early stages of a basement fire from activating the Smoke Detector located at the top of a set of stairs leading to the first floor.

The local firefighters have a simple suggestion to correct this often unrecognized problem.  By installing a Smoke Detector in the basement, either on a wall or ceiling, the awareness of a fire is more promptly recognized.  All fires start small.  Promptness in recognition, notification, and extinguishing important any in saving lives and property.

Chief Everlof added to his suggestion to relocate a “top-of-stairs” Smoke Detector by proposing the installation of a reduced-maintenance, 10-year battery powered, Smoke Detector.   He added a ceiling-mounted Smoke Detector should be  located at least 18 inches away  from dead air space near corners. Newtown Square’s Fire Chief added if mounted on the wall, place it four to 12 inches below the ceiling and away from corners. In a simple reminder, Everlof stressed, “Keep them high and in moving air because smoke rises.”


Back to School Safety

Written by L. James Biddle Friday, 26 August 2016 15:16

It is that time of the year. As sunsets come earlier and the end of August is approaching, returning to school becomes a family activity.  The Newtown Square Fire Company reminds both drivers and children, this time of the year ushers in renewed safety practices. Chief Doug Everlof stressed, “Going back to school is a serious change for drivers, as well as for our community’s youth.

When school returns to being a part of their daily activities, it is not uncommon for children to take advantage of the diminishing daylight and continuing warmer temperatures to enjoy outdoor activities. It is also common for these playful student to forget the family’s lessons in their role of being safe

The size of car in comparison to the size of children adds the requirement for drivers to remember they have a renewed driving-safely responsibility.  To compensate for a back to school students’ forgetfulness of safety, it becomes the responsibility of drivers to increase their awareness of the possibility of having to share the roadway with these forgetful students.

School zones are identified by standardized signage.  To assure driver attention, during the beginning and ending of the school day, electronic speed control reminder adds to driver reminders. In community recreational areas., There normally are no standardized warnings reminding drivers they are approaching a neighborhood play areas.

This void has prompted the Newtown Square Fire Company to volunteer an additional reminder for drivers:  become more alert and to drive more slowly when children are seen playing. Bending the rules of proper spelling, the Newtown Square Fire Company has made a suggestion for all drivers, "Please remember to give our children a brake!"

A common signage found near many schools and recreation areas becomes yet another warning, "We have many children but we have none to spare."  Another thought shared by a Newtown Square firefighter also provides a meaningful safety message, “Please drive as if the playing children were your own.

Stayin' Alive

Written by L. James Biddle Friday, 26 August 2016 15:14

The song, “Stayin’ Alive” featured by the Bee Gees in their album, A Tribute to the Brothers Gibb, has multiple values in life-saving.  Both staying alive applications have proven successes—keeping people alive.  One application of this1977 song is the currently accepted cadence in the life-saving use of CPR.

The second application of “Stayin’ Alive” is a concept that is regaining the attention of the Newtown Square Fire Company and American safety representatives.  Both groups are once more urging occupant of vehicles to use the life-saving, combined lap belt and shoulder restraints.

Research has shown the initial successes in driver and front seat use of these mandated safety devices have largely been maintained. Research has also shown the front seat safety successes are not currently shared in the remainder of the seating areas.

The Newtown Square Fire Company, joins with the national safety experts in an endorsement of an ongoing driver safety program for drivers and an increased emphasis for all passengers to consistently use these safety constraints in a vehicle seating areas.

One of the most often quoted and uttered safety slogans is, “Buckle up for safety.”. Newtown Square Fire company strongly urges everyone in a vehicle everyone to follow this safety suggestion.

More and more statistics are pointing to the fact that people that are passengers in the rear of the car feel that they are immune from the benefits of wearing a seatbelt. Yet increased statistic show that these rear seat passengers become injured because when the car abruptly stops unrestrained rear seat occupants become human projectiles.

Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof volunteered, “Not only do the unbelted, reseat passengers become injured, they also inflict injury is on individuals in the front seat of cars.”  This statement was validated by the research that has shown an unbuckled individual in the rear seating of a car are statistically shown do have three times the number of injuries as than those who are buckled into the seatbelt in the car.

Observation by safety experts in law-enforcement personnel show that between one fourth and one third of the young people and adults in the non-front seats of cars do not buckle up for safety.   Far too many people feel that "just because it's a short trip to the store" they feel they are immune from being hurt in a car accident.

Chief Everlof added another set of statistics.   continue to show that far too many of the fatal accident happened within 25 miles of home and it's less than interstate highway speeds.

Drivers are reminded that no vehicle should not move until the sound of the safety click a seatbelt is heard from the front seat and second and third rows if vehicle has them. Buckle up for safety applies to every passenger and the driver within any vehicle within all vehicles.

The simple click of a seatbelt becomes a contribution to safety—the most welcomed sound a responsible driver will ever hear.


Home Safety: Fire Extinguishers

Written by L. James Biddle Tuesday, 23 August 2016 14:06

With hopes of extended periods of cooler temperatures, family schedules will drift indoors. As the Newtown Square Fire Company begins its preparations for this year’s Fire Prevention program, Lieutenant Bill Rankin suggested this is a good time to become familiar with the simple steps of using a fire extinguisher.

All fires start small, all small fires can quickly grow to be dangerous, big fires. If there is no immediate danger to yourself and others, an available fire extinguisher, when properly used, can extinguish small fires. “Never put yourself at risk. One way to be safe is the familiarity with how a fire extinguisher should be used, “stressed the Fire Company’s Lieutenant Rankin.

In describing the proper use of a fire extinguisher the Newtown Square firefighters suggest remembering a simple, single word—PASS. These four letters become the reminder of how to simply extinguish fires using a fire extinguisher.


Pull the safety pin.

Aim at the bottom of the fire.

Squeeze the handle of the fire extinguisher.

Sweep from side to side beginning at the base.

Don’t be stingy in applying the extinguishing agent. By doing this, there should be no need to reapply the work done a “first application. The extinguishing “blanket” should not be disturbed.

In the kitchen, fire extinguisher should be visibly stored near the entry; avoid storage in a cabinet near the cooking area. Newtown Square’s Rankin volunteered, “The simplest way to extinguish afire in a stove top cooking utensil is to use another, larger cooking utensil or a non-combustible utensil lid. “

Calmly approaching the burning contents in a stove-top burner area, use the lid or larger utensil to smother the flames. Apply this larger vessel being used in a hinging action, with the imaginary hinge being at the closest burning area.

Slowly lower this smothering, larger item over the fire.

Lieutenant Rankin promptly added, “The next step is patience. Avoid the temptation to see if the fire is extinguished. Wait until both stovetop vessel and the smothering “cover” are cool to the touch to “lift the extinguish item.” The slowest method of extinguishing is the removal of a fire’s source of air.

Completing this simple primer, the Fire Company urges resident to avoid trying to extinguish burning liquids with water. The combustible liquid will float on the water, expanding the area of flames and the fire danger.

Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof adds the greatest tools in home fire safety is understanding the importance of ‘knowing what to do’ and keeping calm. Headed, “By mentally practicing these home-safety suggestions cannot be over-emphasized.”

Common types of fire extinguishers


  • Class A: Common combustibles (wood, paper, cloth, etc.) common in a typical home or commercial settings.
  • Class B: Flammable liquids and gases (Gasoline, propane and solvents) often spread rapidly and can even re-flash after the flames are extinguished.
  • Class C: Live electrical equipment (computers, fax machines, etc.) - can be caused by a spark, power surge or short circuit.
  • Class D: Combustible metals (magnesium, lithium, titanium, etc.) - fires involve combustible metals such as magnesium and sodium., require special dry powder agents.
  • Class K: Cooking media (cooking oils and fats) these extremely hot fires that have the ability to re-flash.


Home To College Items

Written by L. James Biddle Thursday, 11 August 2016 09:59

Some college students are preparing to leave home for the first extended period of time.  These students may need some guidance or help in selecting items to take to school. Other students are returning as veterans and hopefully they remember what they will need. A collection of Newtown Square firefighter remembers their “first time” away from home.  Their memories have contributed to a ‘take to school list.

The number one item of this list continues to be a thermometer.  “What type” is a common response to this suggestion.  Then, as now, the answer states, “Duplicate the type used at home. This will help remove some of the stress of being away from home.”

Other items included in this “off to school” list of simple health items going off to school may include antihistamines, decongestants, cough medicine, and throat lozenges. A small collection of the salt packets used at fast food restaurants and a glass of warm water can combine to help irritated, sore throats.

As a surprise to the student, send along a surprise selection of soothing herbal teas. They can be helpful for colds or the stresses of school.

This list of items should include pain relievers for overexertion, headaches, or menstrual cramps. These may save the student a trip to the “never-nearby” pharmacy.

For scrapes and cuts, the former, local emergency medical crews suggest alcohol for surface cleaning wounds and then hydrogen peroxide or antibiotic creams for preventing infections.  The packed ‘cure’ items should also include a collection of adhesive bandages.

‘A college environment sometimes transforms the times set aside for eating into almost anytime, anywhere, or anything.  A long-proven help for dietary problems are antacids in liquid, tablet, or chewable forms. The Newtown Square fire fighters stress, “Experience has demonstrated that whatever works at home should work equally well when away from home.”

Until needed, there may seem little reason to pack a pair of tweezers. Despite any reluctance to do so, tweezers may prove to be invaluable for removing splinters, insect stingers, or deer ticks.  Also include an anti-itch lotion.  This soothing item can create welcomed comfort for bites, poison ivy, or rashes.

important reminder included in this elementary list of ‘leaving home’ items includes the simple, important tools of communications. One segment of this stressed communications is the dialogue between parents and students.   Asking for parental help or guidance is both quick and accurate.

Another important communication, one with and early priority when arriving on campus is the investing of a few moments to locate the school’s Health Center. It is best to providing them with health records and any special medical concerns, a list of all prescribed medicines, and over-the-counter medicines before any possible illness or emergency occurs. As a special reminder, the firefighter-EMS providers add, “Don’t forget to list any allergies that your student may have.”

In concluding this partial list of school-health suggestions, the Newtown Square Fire Company’s firefighters have added, Hopefully, the home-borne habit of hand washing also goes off to school with the student.  Leaving home and living in a school environment can create many differing challenges.  By being prepared for illness and accidents is one way to help limit any away-from-home problems. Taking a little bit of home to school is always a good help in both cures and prevention.


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