Safety advice abounds in D.C. region

September 29, 2012

The principal safety guidance that many people learned was once “always look both ways’’ when crossing a street. But with today’s greater threat level, the number of safety mantras has expanded.

Before last year, few in the Washington region gave much thought to earthquakes.

Now, Virginia’s emergency management agency said nearly 390,000 state residents have already signed up for an October drill to practice the quake safety slogan: “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”

The agency said Virginia has joined several other jurisdictions, including Maryland and the District, to publicize earthquake safety and to take part in the Oct.18 preparedness drill known as the Great SouthEast ShakeOut.

Earthquakes are not the only hazard that has assumed new prominence.

The D.C. police department’s Web site offers a link to an “Active Shooter Pocket Card” issued by the federal department of Homeland Security.

Citing recent mass slayings, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier wrote in July of the need to always to be prepared to respond to a mass casualty incident.

Among the recommendations on the pocket card: “Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.”

Another is “If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.”

Trying to overcome the shooter is suggested only as a last resort.

Taking note of two exits, coincidentally, is also one recommendation from the Prince George’s County fire department in connection with this year’s Fire Prevention Week, which runs from Oct. 7 through Oct. 13.

“What if your first escape route is blocked by smoke or flames?” the department Web site asked. “That’s why having two ways out is such a key part of your plan.”

The theme of this year’s prevention week activities: “Have 2 Ways Out!” focuses on the importance of fire-escape planning and practice, the county department said.

Another fire-safety recommendation issued this year appears to take particular account of the aging population. On Sept. 18, Maryland’s fire marshal urged that older people take special fire and burn safety precautions.

One recommendation was for those who use wheelchairs. It suggested that they consider mounting a small fire extinguisher for personal use on the chair, in an accessible place.

Then, recommended fire marshal William E. Barnard, someone precluded from following the traditional mantra of “stop, drop, and roll” during a fire could still take action to prevent harm.

What should be done, Barnard said, giving the concise guidance for extinguisher use: “You should ‘pull, aim, squeeze and sweep.’ ”

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