STORM SEASON SAFETY “When thunder roars, go indoors.” Once the rain stops falling, it’s still a good idea to stay inside, to let the professionals clear up the damage and most importantly, to keep yourself safe. Although the streets may be ankle deep in water, it’s not like a day at the beach. The sudden influx of rainwater picks up contaminants from the streets and overloads the sanitary sewers, “So you have gas, pesticides and whatever happened in the bathroom 20 minutes ago mixed in with the rain,” says Mt. Lebanon Fire Department Deputy Chief Rodger Ricciuti. “And manhole covers come off and you can’t see them. They can disable a car, and they can suck you down into the hole.”
Best advice is to wait at least 10 or 15 minutes from the end of the storm—or whenever the street is visible–to venture out.
STOPPING BEFORE IT STARTS According to the National Fire Prevention Association, a nationwide average of about 49,000 fires a year begin with kids playing with fire. That’s more than 900 a week. About 40 percent of all arson arrests in the U.S. are of people 18 or younger.
The Mt. Lebanon Fire Department’s Youth Fire Intervention program is a collaboration with Outreach Teen & Family Services. While the fire department has always had an outreach program for children and fire, Lt. Kris Siegert, of the department’s fire prevention and public education division, says the program has undergone a few tweaks. The first was removing the word “firesetters” from the program title.
“We want there to be less stigmatization associated with the program,” he says. “We used to just get referrals from the police department, but now we’re trying to widen the scope. We want to reach more than just the kids who are already in trouble, and get them the help they need.”
The free, confidential program begins with an interview with a firefighter and a counselor from Outreach. If the interviewers determine that the behavior is a symptom of a mental health issue, the child will be referred to the appropriate agencies. The firefighters, each of whom has received special training in youth fire intervention, will set up a series of classes at the public safety building.
Siegert says the summer months, with the combination of more free time and less adult supervision, can result in kids accidentally setting more fires.
“And now, with cameras everywhere, it’s harder and harder to escape detection. Someone’s going to pick it up. We want to help them before things escalate.”
LOOK UP LEBO We don’t need another COVID-related problem. Lately police have been observing groups of sidewalk runners and walkers attempting social distancing by stepping into the street. Maintaining the six-foot distance is essential, but even more essential is making sure you have a safe space to move into. Look both ways if you’re on foot and be aware if you’re behind the wheel.
NEW JOBS Steve Ruby and Scott Green have been promoted to lieutenants in the Mt. Lebanon Police Department, to fill several longterm vacancies.
“We’ve been shorthanded for a while,” says Deputy Chief Jason Haberman. “We’ve been able to fill the gaps, but it’s always good to be at full strength.”
Ruby and Green will be watch commanders in the patrol division. The appointments also allowed for the lateral transfer of Lt. Dan Hyslop from patrol to the investigations unit.
Police promotion involves a comprehensive written exam, candidate interviews before a promotion board and an internal evaluation process, which yields a list of qualified candidates.
Next on the agenda is a round of testing and promotions to fill the corporal slots open because of the promotions.
EASY ON THE FIREWORKS With the cancellation of most formal professional fireworks shows, including Mt. Lebanon’s annual July Fourth event, some folks are thinking of having a DIY show. The Mt. Lebanon fire and police departments have one word for you: Don’t.
You can safely go ahead and use items on the ground … but anything that goes into the air or burns hot in a child’s hand is just asking for trouble. And just because it may be legal now, doesn’t make it safe.
The fire department has responded to house fires in Mt. Lebanon caused by fireworks as well as injuries to people who thought they were doing everything right. This year, fireworks sellers have already started marketing to first-time customers and that could be a recipe for disaster.
Legally, you cannot shoot fireworks any closer than 150 feet from a structure. And don’t think going to the school yard will help. You can’t use them on public or private property without the permission of the owner. Penalties can involve fines of up to $100. This year, the Mt. Lebanon Police Department will be tightening enforcement in hopes of keeping people safe.