SMOKIN’ Most people love the smell of a wood fire—unless the smoke is blowing directly into their bedroom window. Mt. Lebanon allows the use of chimineas, portable outdoor fireplaces and portable outdoor fire pits, but with conditions. And even if you are following the rules, your cozy fire could be a smoky annoyance to your neighbors, especially if they suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions. So here are a few neighborly tips.
• Always use the device in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Don’t overload the device with fuel.
• Don’t burn rubbish or yard waste.
• Don’t burn wet or damp wood—it tends to create more smoke.
• Try to position the device in a way that the smoke will blow away from the houses closest to yours.
• Don’t burn a fire on extremely humid days as the smoke tends to stay low. Also avoid windy days.
• Always keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose close at hand.
To review ordinances for outdoor fires, check www.mtlfd.org and click the “fire prevention” tab.
Spring is also the time of year when people start firing up the old grill. If you store your grill over the winter months, make sure to clean the grill before you try to start it. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the following:
• Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders or food grease. Use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear blockage and push it through to the main part of the burner.
• Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.
• Replace scratched or nicked connectors, which can leak gas.
• If you smell gas when you reconnect the grill to the gas container, you may have a leak. Immediately turn off the gas and don’t attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed.
More grilling safety tips are available at www.cpsc.gov.
USE 911 It’s been well over a decade since Mt. Lebanon adopted the 911 system, yet many residents still seem a bit hazy on what number to call. If you want a firefighter, police officer or paramedic, call 911. Call this number even if you have a non-emergency. Years ago Mt. Lebanon used another number, which we won’t even mention lest it gets lodged in your mind. Don’t call that number; it has been disconnected. Call 911. “People get freaked out when a dispatcher answers and says, ‘what’s your emergency?’” says Lt. Aaron Lauth. “But don’t worry about that.”
The only, only exception to this rule is if you are calling the police to request permission to park overnight on the street. Those requests will be taken from 6 to 11 p.m. daily at 412-343-4023.
But if you see a suspicious character in your neighborhood, if the teenager across the street is blaring music at midnight, if your husband is having chest pains, if your carbon monoxide detector goes off, whatever… call 911.
TEENS & ALCOHOL Proms, graduation parties and end-of-the-school-year festivities are things to look forward to. Please remember that underage drinking carries consequences from fines to license suspension. According to the Centers for Disease Control underage drinking is responsible for more than 4,700 deaths and approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits annually. Young people age 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States with more than 90 percent consumed as binge drinking. Please talk to your teens about being responsible, and be aware that if you practice a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to the parties that your teen is hosting, you could get hit with a fine as well.
SPRING SCAMS It’s amazing how many ways you can get ripped off. Two popular home improvement scams are paving scams and pruning scams. In the first one, a contractor offers to repave your driveway with “leftover” materials from another job. More often than not, those materials are substandard and you end up having to repair the repair. The second scam involves tree pruners who do an hour of work, report they’ll be back the next day to finish, collect their check and then are never heard from again. Remember, never pay in full before the job is done (although most businesses do require a down payment), always get a contract and, when possible, ask for references. The one good thing is that the Attorney General and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office are now pursuing home improvement scammers with criminal charges under the Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, but it’s often a difficult and time-consuming process. So be proactive!