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Emergency Services offers tips for safe holiday

July 3rd, 2019 by WCBC Radio

With Allegany County’s hundreds of miles of state park land, lakes, rivers, streams and other recreational areas summers first major holiday is sure to bring many visitors and locals out to enjoy the beautiful scenery and attractions. Allegany County Department of Emergency Services officials want to remind visitors and residents of the summertime dangers.


“The 4th of July holiday is less than 24 hours away and marks the first major summer holiday, we just want citizens to be aware of some of the potential dangers with summertime activities,” Allegany County Department of Emergency Services Director James Pyles said. “People will be using sparklers, having campfires, swimming, hiking and biking over the next few days and enjoying the extended holiday weekend.”


Fireworks displays are planned around the country celebrating the 4th of July, the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office says attending one of these pre-planned events is the safest way to enjoy fireworks.


“There were 17 fireworks-related incidents reported in Maryland (in 2019),” Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci said during a recent presentation in Howard County. “Prevention of burns, injuries and fires has always been a top priority of our office. The safest way to enjoy fireworks this (holiday) season is to attend one of the many public fireworks displays throughout the state.”


Geraci said that if you insist on viewing fireworks at home, instead of recommended professional displays you are encouraged to do the following: Keep a bucket of water on hand for sparklers and other fireworks after use, never attempt to re-light fireworks that did not fully ignite the first time, never use fireworks in combination with alcohol and other drugs, never allow children to use fireworks or sparkers, light fireworks one at a time and move away quickly after igniting and look up your county’s local fireworks rules to ensure you are using only legal fireworks products.


In the event that you sustain a fireworks related injury, activate EMS immediately by dialing 911.


“If you become injured during the holiday please dial 911 as soon as possible so our communication specialists can dispatch the appropriate resources,” Interim EMS Chief Christopher Biggs said. “We want to make sure that we get units on the street as soon as possible to make a rapid assessment, treatment and transport plan.”


Biggs added that in some situations local hospitals aren’t equipped to handle complex procedures related to burns or blast injuries and patient’s may be referred to specialty centers within the state.


“Our EMS providers will make that assessment quickly and request additional resources to get the patient to right facility at the right time,” Biggs said.


In Maryland, The Curtis National Hand Center located on the campus at MedStar Memorial Hospital is the referral center for blast injuries to the hands.


“This time of year is one of the busiest,” Dr. Ryan Zimmerman, attending hand surgeon at the Curtis National Hand Center at MedStar Memorial Hospital. “If you experience a loss of digits during a fireworks accident, never put them directly on ice. First wrap them in gauze and place in a plastic bag within another plastic bag that contains a combination of ice and water.”




“As campers and local residents have campfires this holiday and throughout the summer, we want to reinforce some safer practices to prevent injury or property loss,” Deputy Director Roger Bennet said.


Bennet said if you don’t have a commercially purchased fire ring, we encourage you to clear a five-foot area around the pit, dug down to the soil. Make a ring by circling this area with rocks. Additionally, keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby in case the fire would spread. Residents can decrease the spread of fires by keeping extra wood and combustibles upwind and away from the fire.


“One of the most important points is to never leave a campfire unattended,” Bennett said.




Allegany County is home to three major state parks including Dans Mountain, Rocky Gap and Green Ridge all of which offer an abundance of hiking trails and wildness land.


“Plan for the unexpected when hiking,” Chief of Emergency Management Steve Shipley said. “It could be a change in weather conditions, you or a fellow hiker could become injured or lost, but by planning in advance you can minimize some of these risks and make your hiking trip safer.”


The U.S. Forest Service recommends more than enough food and water for your planned activity, a compass that you know how to use, appropriate maps, sturdy hiking boots, clothing that you can layer depending on the weather conditions, a flashlight, matches and check with the local ranger district or forest office for special warnings, such as fires in the area, bear sightings, flooding, trail or road closures. Also, confirm that your cellphone is fully charged before beginning your hike.


Shipley added that simply observing your surroundings as you enter the wilderness, during your hike and knowing how long you have been hiking can save time if you become lost.


If you become disoriented or lost call 911.


“One of the first questions we ask is for the caller to look around and tell us what they see,” Emergency Communication Specialist Mark Karalewitz said. “We are trying to get a landmark to dispatch the appropriate units. It also gives our field operation units a starting point.”


Karalewitz added hikers should know where they entered the woods and where they planned on coming out.


“We also can’t emphasize enough for the caller to stand still and not to move after calling 911,” Karalewitz said.


Allegany County can use cell phone technology to triangulate the caller’s position and get a general location of the caller, according to Karalewitz.


“We are fortunate in this area to also have the resources of the Natural Resource Police that patrol and are familiar with the area and Maryland State Police Aviation that can provide aerial views if needed,” Shipley added.


Media Contact: Todd Bowman is the public information officer for Allegany County. He can be reached via email at or phone at 240-609-8861.

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