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A record amount of snow might descend on the Carroll County area today into the weekend, but the Manchester Volunteer Fire Department isn't backing down from the winter challenge.

"We're ready. Bring it on," said Richard Dell, a spokesman for the fire department.

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Like other Carroll fire companies, the department has been preparing for the snow, checking its equipment and preparing its station to house firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics who will weather the storm at the station in order to make sure there will be staff available to cover emergencies. The upcoming storm, dubbed Jonas, could bring 18 to 24 inches of snow by the time it stops, according to the National Weather Service.

"We're here to take care of the people in our community, and we'll do that," Dell said.

Many of the departments are equipped with snow chains and four-wheel-drive vehicles. The Manchester department's ambulances are all four-wheel drive, and the company also has two four-wheel-drive utility vehicles, Dell said.

Fire and police departments also work with the county to make sure the roads they need to use are clear, Westminster Volunteer Fire Department spokesman Kevin Dayhoff said.

"The relationships that we have with the city and the county are invaluable," Dayhoff said.

If there is enough snow, a plow will be placed at every station to ensure emergency vehicles can get out, Dell said.

In terms of getting to the scene of an emergency, Dell said, response time delays would be minor.

"It going to be a little bit [longer]," he said, "but it's not going to be drastic."

Response times could also be slower because of safety concerns for emergency personnel, said Bruce Bouch, a spokesman with the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Gamber & Community Fire Company.

"Every attempt will be made to get there as swiftly and safely as possible," he said.

To help firefighters and paramedics, people should make sure to keep their driveways clear and flag down the emergency vehicles, he said.

Homeowners should also keep snow off fire hydrants, Dayhoff said.

"It's really, really important to make sure the fire hydrant is cleared out and free of snow," Dayhoff said.

The other way to help emergency personnel is to be careful when using alternate fire sources. The risk of fire tends to increase during heavy snowfalls, and space heaters and candles are some of the biggest culprits of fires, Dayhoff said.

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"Candles are a no-no, especially if the power goes out," he said.

Carroll residents should also be careful when using fireplaces. Do not use the fireplace if the chimney has not been cleaned, Dell said.

"Chimney fires lead to house fires," he said.

While the risk of fire goes up with large snowstorms, crime tends to plummet because people stay inside, Westminster police Chief Jeff Spaulding said.

"Most people heed the good advice, which is stay home and stay off the roads," Spaulding said.

While crime rates decrease, police are still called out for cases of domestic fights and car crashes, he said.

"It is not uncommon to have family domestic squabbles or problems due to alcohol in these situations," Spaulding said.

While most people will stay in on Saturday, there is an increased risk of car accidents on Friday with the heaviest snowfall hitting between 4 to 7 p.m., Spaulding said.

Drivers out on the road should prepare in case they get stuck in the snow. He advised drivers to pack blankets and warm clothes.

"I would certainly recommend everyone carry their cellphones and make sure they are adequately charged," Spaulding said.

Being smart and trying to stay inside once the storm hits will help make the lives of emergency responders easier, he said.

"I don't know if it's a historic amount, but it's enough snow to be dangerous and tax our resources," Spaulding said.

Despite the strain the weather puts on emergency responders, people should not worry about being stranded in the event of an emergency, Dell said.

"If people are concerned if we're going to be there, we're going to be there," Dell said.

How to prevent a fire during a snowstorm:

Westminster, Manchester and Gamber fire department spokesmen offer the following tips for fire safety in a snowstorm.

•Do not use the fireplace if the chimney has not been cleaned.

•Avoid using candles, especially when the power goes out.

•Instead of candles, try using solar lights. They can be charged outside even when there is snow on the ground.

•Keep a radius of at least 3 feet clear around space heaters.

410-857-7898

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