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Region’s Fire Chiefs Encourage Residents to Take Safety Measures as New Winter Storm Arrives
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Region’s Fire Chiefs Encourage Residents

to Take Safety Measures as New Winter Storm Arrives


News Highlights

  • Evacuate the building if you notice any of the warning signs of potential roof collapse. Call 9-1-1 if your roof collapses.
  • Do not attempt to clear the snow off your roof; do clear downspouts and drains.
  • Clear snow away from fire hydrants.
  • Take precautions to prevent fires, including unplugging appliances after power outages.


As heavy snow continues to accumulate on flat roofs of buildings , the National Capital Region’s fire chiefs encourage residents to watch for the warning signs of a potential roof collapse . If your roof collapses, call 9-1-1.

Warning Signs of Potential Roof Collapse:

If they have a flat roof, homeowners should monitor the ceiling below the roof and look for the following signs of roof collapse:


·          Sagging ceiling beneath the flat roof.

·          New cracks on the ceiling drywall or plaster.

·          Popping, cracking or creaking sounds.

·          Doors and/or windows that can no longer be opened or closed. 


Residents should evacuate their home if they notice any of these warning signs , and they should call 9-1-1 if their roof collapses. Homeowners should not try to clear snow off of their roof because they may slip and fall or hit electrical wires.  However, residents should clear the areas around downspouts and roof drains so that water from melting snow can flow away from the house.

Most commercial buildings are designed to accommodate 24 inches of dense, compact or wet snow. If you notice any of the warning signs below, the building needs to be evacuated immediately :

·          Sagging roof members, including steel bar joists, metal decking, wood rafters, wood trusses and plywood sheathing.

·          Popping, cracking and creaking sounds.

·          Sagging ceiling tiles and/or sagging sprinkler lines and sprinkler heads.

·          Doors and/or windows that can no longer be opened or closed.

Roofs can fail for several reasons, including:

  • Older buildings may not be designed to current standards and could be subject to problems.
  • Roof drains and/or downspouts become blocked or frozen and melting snow or rain cannot adequately drain from the roof.
  • Over time, additional weight is added to the roof, such as HVAC equipment or a new roof covering.
  • Imbalance of snow load on roof (normally caused by drifting snow).

How to Protect Roofs After the Storm:

  • Have a professional, licensed contractor remove all snow immediately from every roof surface, including roof overhangs and covered porches.
  • Remove snow from side walls to prevent high snow mounds from pushing them in.
  • Temporarily shore up and brace dipping or sagging roofs or walls.
  • Verify that drains are clear of snow and ice to allow melting and runoff. If the roof is pitched and without drains, open paths to the eaves to ensure drainage and prevent ponding.
  • Avoid ice dams by keeping the attic well ventilated, so snow doesn't melt and refreeze at the roof's edge. Also make certain the attic floor is well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising from the house into the attic.

Clear Fire Hydrants and Vents After the Storm:

Clear snow away from all fire hydrants, so that they are easily visible in the event of a fire . Clear snow from heating and dryer vents to prevent possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not run generators in the home, garage, other enclosed spaces, or near exterior wall openings.

Fire Safety Tips to Follow:


·         If the power goes out, turn off or unplug all appliances. When the electricity is back on, power surges can start fires. This safety precaution is especially important if computers, TVs and entertainment systems are not plugged into surge protectors.

·         If the power is out, use flashlights, not candles. Candles can start fires.

·         Don’t use gas or charcoal grills, propane heaters and stoves, kerosene space heaters or generators indoors because they can be fatal. Not only can these items start fires, but also they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning when used inside.

·         Keep electric space heaters at least three feet away from anything flammable.

·         If you are using a car to warm up, be sure the tail pipe is clear of snow or ice; a blocked tailpipe could cause carbon monoxide to leak inside your car. If you are warming up a car in a garage, make sure the garage door is open in order to prevent a build up of carbon monoxide.

·         Discard fireplace ashes safely by putting them in a metal container away from the house. Ashes can stay hot for several days after a fire.

·         Check the batteries in smoke alarms to make sure they are working. Have extra batteries on hand for a portable radio and flashlights.

·         Make sure that all exits are snow free in case it’s necessary to evacuate the building in a fire.

·         Watch out for downed power lines. Do not touch the wires or anything that the wires are touching. Contact your local utility and report the condition.


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