‘Major Gas Explosion’ Kills 2, Injures 7 in Baltimore
A "major" natural gas explosion killed two people and seriously injured at least seven in Baltimore, Maryland Monday morning.
The blast destroyed three row homes in the northwestern Baltimore neighborhood of Reisterstown Station and ripped open a fourth, The Associated Press reported. One woman and one man were killed, city fire officials said, according to WJZ. Rescue crews and dogs worked to pull others from the rubble.
"I've never seen anything like that and I've lived in Baltimore City all my life," neighbor Dean Jones told WBAL. "It's almost like somebody just took a bomb out the side and dropped it on the three houses. It's completely leveled."
Here some images of today's fatal explosion in northwest Baltimore, 4200 block of Labyrinth Rd. We are assisting… https://t.co/0S8IkGkIbh— Baltimore County Fire Department (@Baltimore County Fire Department)1597078266.0
The blast occurred just before 10 a.m. Monday. Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Adams told The New York Times it was a "major gas explosion." She said Monday afternoon that rescue crews would continue to work overnight digging through the rubble if needed.
As FFs combed through the night, the body of an adult male was located just before 1am. #BCFD @BaltimoreOEM remain… https://t.co/g6lj1DMKq9— Baltimore Fire (@Baltimore Fire)1597152279.0
The cause of the explosion is currently unknown. Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), the country's oldest gas company, said it was investigating the incident, according to The New York Times.
The company said in a statement Monday that there were no gas readings or gas leaks found in the buildings or on the road where the explosion took place. There were also no reports of gas smells from the area before the incident. However, people on the ground told WJZ they smelled gas after the blast.
"BGE is committed to fully understanding the cause of this incident and will inspect all BGE equipment once rescue efforts are complete," the company wrote in the statement.
Aerial images of the reported explosion in Baltimore. https://t.co/GK0dpY9pMR https://t.co/vOR5gIQCT7— ABC 7 News - WJLA (@ABC 7 News - WJLA)1597070104.0
BGE is currently working to replace thousands of miles of aging gas pipelines, according to a Baltimore Sun story reported by The New York Times. The number of leaks in the city has increased by 75 percent from 2009 to 2016, but the replacement process could take two decades.
"Founded in 1816, BGE is the oldest gas distribution company in the nation. Like many older gas systems, a larger portion of its gas main and services infrastructure consists of cast iron and bare steel – materials that are obsolete and susceptible to failure with age," the Maryland Public Service Commission wrote when it approved the renovations in 2018, as The Associated Press reported.
The gas infrastructure in the area where the explosion hit was installed in the early 1960s, BGE said. But when the area was last inspected in June and July of 2019, no leaks were detected.
Climate campaigner and 350.org founder Bill McKibben wrote that the explosion was another argument for retiring gas heating altogether.
"Now that we have cheap, effective air source heat pumps, it's time for public policy to help everyone finance them, beginning with the poorest Americans. It is utterly unnecessary to have a tube of flammable gas running into your house," he tweeted.
Now that we have cheap, effective air source heat pumps, it's time for public policy to help everyone finance them,… https://t.co/ciJI3zeGHg— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1597081942.0
Monday's tragedy comes a little less than a year after another gas explosion destroyed part of an office complex in Columbia, Maryland. Luckily, no one was injured in that blast, according to The Associated Press.
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By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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