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Severe Weather Fire Safety Precautions from the NIH Fire Marshal​​

The NIH Fire Marshal would like to help everyone be prepared for severe weather events before they occur and to understand the fire risks associated with severe weather and other natural unexpected events. Severe weather brings the risk of fire from lighting, portable generators, leaking gas lines, damaged propane tanks, leaking vehicle tanks, water damaged appliances, debris near electrical wires and transformers, damaged and downed utility lines, and exposed electrical outlets and wiring.

Severe Weather Checklist:

  • Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and ensure they have working batteries
  • Have flashlights and plenty of batteries
  • Use surge protectors
  • Unplug portable appliances when not in use
  • Ensure all outside drains are clean and free of debris
  • Check sump pumps for proper operation
  • Review and practice your home fire escape plan


  • Use portable generators outside in well ventilated areas away from doors, windows and vents
  • Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors in your home
  • Do not use a generator in a wet area; this can cause shock or electrocution
  • Connect appliances to the generator with heavy duty extension cords
  • Do not fuel a generator when it is running; spilling gas on a hot engine can cause a fire and burn injuries

For more information: (Anyone unable to view the video may contact the NIH Fire Marshal for a verbal explanation)

Flood Emergencies

Before a severe weather emergency involving heavy rains that can cause severe flooding and extensive water damage, take the following preparations:

  • Ensure drains are clean and clear of any debris
  • Use sandbags around lower level doors and windows
  • Make sure you secure or protect any hazards in your home
  • Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate
  • Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate
  • Buy a fire extinguisher if you don't already have one; make sure your family knows where it is and how to use it
  • Buy and install sump pumps with back-up power
  • Have a licensed electrician raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring) at least 12″ above your home's projected flood elevation
  • Install backflow valves or plugs in drains, toilets, and other sewer connections to prevent floodwaters from entering
  • Have flood damaged appliances inspected and repaired by a qualified technician before use
  • Have gas lines and heating units inspected prior to use

For more information: (Anyone unable to view the video may contact the NIH Fire Marshal for a verbal explanation)

Electrical Fire Safety

  • If you can get to the main breaker or fuse box safely, turn off the power
  • Remove standing water, wet carpets and furnishings
  • Ventilate your home to dry it thoroughly before restoring power
  • Inspect extension and appliance cords; replace frayed or cracked cords, loose prongs and damaged plugs
  • Repair or replace appliances that emit smoke or sparks
  • Have a licensed electrician check your home for damage

For more information: (Anyone unable to view the video may contact the NIH Fire Marshal for a verbal explanation)

Gas Fire Safety

  • Smell and listen for leaky connections
  • If you believe there is a leak, immediately leave your home
  • Keep the doors open as you leave and shut off the gas if you can
  • Do not use matches or any open flame near gas; any spark or flame can cause an explosion
  • Call 911 and report a gas leak
  • Before re-entering the home and before gas is turned back on have connections and appliances checked by a certified gas technician

For more information: (Anyone unable to view the video may contact the NIH Fire Marshal for a verbal explanation)

If you have any questions concerning sever weather fire risks, please contact the NIH Fire Marshal at 301-496-0487 or contact your local fire department or state fire marshal.

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