With social distancing measures in place in Maryland during the coronavirus pandemic, firefighters are getting more calls to people’s homes for kitchen fires and more inquiries into exit plans for businesses that have changed their layouts, according to the state fire marshal.
“Now that we have people home, we knew this was going to happen. We have seen an uptick in fires,” said Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci.
The state’s stay-at-home order means that more people are cooking, which can be dangerous, he said. “We want people to watch what they cook, stay in the kitchen. Don’t walk away, try not to get distracted and if you do, turn the stove off.”
He also said to be careful with more people at home plugging in portable electronics. He urges people to use wall sockets over power strips.
“A lot of people are online, watching TV — they’ve got new devices that they’re doing their homework on and they’re starting to use the multi-plug outlets and those types of things, and we’re starting to see those fires as well,” Geraci said.
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They’ve recently seen a death from a man using an oven as a heater. Geraci said to reach out for help if you need assistance with heating your home and to always keep 3 feet around any space heaters.
“This is not the time to have a fire in your home. Where are you going to go? The Red Cross is putting people up at hotels but after that it’s going to be hard because we’re all practicing social distancing,” Geraci said.
And as businesses adapt to social distancing guidelines, the Maryland State Fire Marshal has been receiving questions from customers about businesses modifying their entrances, exits and aisles to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Starting Monday, the Maryland State Fire Marshall is providing escape plan handouts to businesses as they navigate keeping people apart during the pandemic.
“We started seeing some complaints on our social media posts about people saying they’ve been in certain big box stores and saw that the exits were being modified and blocked.”
Geraci said that while the intentions were right to help promote social distancing, they’re stepping in during a time when fire inspections have been put on hold, to help businesses find ways to make sure that the stores remain safe if there was to be an emergency.
“We appreciate the management taking the steps for the social distancing, but we’ve got to make sure that the fire code is being complied with and that the building is going to be safe,” he said.
Geraci added that businesses can reconfigure the entrances and exits but must put signs on the door that says emergency exit only. If you see a business that you think has an exit blocked, notify the Maryland State Fire Marshal by phone or social media.