public safety

SUMMER REMINDER Every year, burglaries increase in the summer as the unscrupulous take advantage of open doors to gain access to houses. If you’re working in your backyard and leave your front door open, anyone can pop in and grab your laptop or other valuables in just minutes. Hey, it’s called a “crime of opportunity” for a reason. When you’re gardening, visiting with neighbors or walking the dog, lock any doors that you will not be able to keep your eye on.

Summer also is the time for scams involving contractors. In one scenario, a traveling asphalt crew will offer a low-priced deal to repave or reseal your driveway. These crews wander from town to town offering great deals. They’ll tell you that they can afford to offer the bargain price because they are using leftover materials from a completed job a few houses away. Many even promise a lifetime guarantee, but by the time you realize what a shoddy job they did, they will be long gone, your driveway will look worse than it did before, and it’s going to cost you more to repair it. Beware.

Another way to spot a possible scam is if the contractor offers to do the work without a written contract. Without a contract, the original low estimate may grow to hundreds or even thousands of dollars above the estimate once the work is completed.

Here are a few tips: In general, never hire a contractor who approaches you. Before you hire anyone to do work around your house, ask for references, a written estimate and then check that the company is bonded. If the work turns out to be substandard, you can file a claim against the bond. Without a bond, you will have little recourse if there is a problem and the contractor may have left town. Bottom line: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

ROAD SENSE When on the road—whether as drivers, walkers or cyclists—we often lapse into autopilot. It’s easy to become complacent about something we do daily. Last year, there were 594 reported crashes in Mt. Lebanon, nine involving pedestrians. In an attempt to reduce those numbers, the Mt. Lebanon Police Department has issued a “Road Sense” pamphlet reminding us all of ways to be safe. Copies of the pamphlet are available at the Public Safety Center at 555 Washington Road, on the police department’s website ( and will be available at community events where the police department has a table. Here are a few to consider:

• When walking, if no sidewalks are available, walk facing the oncoming traffic.

• When riding a bike, be aware of the “door zone”—the three to four foot area next to parked vehicles where a door could swing open into your path.

•  When driving, maintain a distance of about two car lengths between you and the car in front of you. This distance will be crucial in avoiding a crash if the car before you stops suddenly.

Along the front of the truck is a pre-connected 3-inch hose line. Two interior display monitors—at the driver and passenger side—alert firefighters to any potential problems (such as an open door), operate lights and generators, run diagnostics and show images from the cameras mounted on the side and rear of the truck. The monsoon pump can deliver 1,500 gallons of water per minute. It can be operated from the front or rear of the truck or by remote control. Outriggers are equipped with a self-leveling device. Photo by John Altdorfer.

NEW TRUCK Mt. Lebanon Fire Department has welcomed its newest member:—a shiny new ladder truck. Fire Chief Nick Sohyda says the truck will be the first sent to fires—that’s about 30 percent of the department’s calls or approximately 450 calls annually.

The truck was scheduled to debut in April after firefighters completed extensive training with it, but they got a jump start on March 13 when the truck was called out to assist the Dormont Fire Department at a West Liberty Avenue apartment fire. Here’s an overview of what we got for $890,000 (Cost to the municipality was offset by a $585,000 Homeland Security Grant and $127,000 from the sale of the old ladder truck.)

Make: Smeal Fire Apparatus

Type: A Quint (aka quintuple combination) pumper. This means it serves as both an engine and a ladder truck and contains a pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device and ground ladders.

Seats: 6

Engine: A Cummins diesel engine with 525 horsepower

Length: 40 feet (6 feet shorter than the last truck, which makes it easier to maneuver along residential streets)

Height: 12 feet, six inches

Length of ladder: 105 feet. The ladder can be tilted to a 45-degree angle—perfect for reaching rooftops. The truck also houses six ground ladders ranging from 16 to 45 feet.

VOLUME: A 480-gallon water tank and a 20-gallon tank of class A foam (it is mixed with water). It can pump 1,500 gallons of water per minute.

Special features: A self-leveling device and sensors on the outriggers that warn firefighters if the vehicle is overloaded or being operated at an unsafe level. The outriggers extend four feet on either side of the truck to give it stability as the ladder is raised. These controls ensure the truck is level, a necessity in Mt. Lebanon’s hilly terrain. This truck features a one button-leveling feature, something the old truck did not have.

The truck carries 11 self-contained breathing apparatus—seven in the truck’s cab and four tucked away in a side compartment for firefighters who respond to a call from off site.

In addition to rope equipment for rescues (such as someone stuck on scaffolding), the truck carries axes, sledgehammers, pry bars, tarps and other tools and features compartments containing positive pressure ventilation fans, equipment for fires in high rises and a number of hoses in various sizes.

Because of the computers and new apparatus, all the department’s firefighters underwent intensive training before the truck was put into operation. Even then, Sohyda says, “For as high tech as it is, they make it very easy to operate.”