By Elise Armacost
Director, Public Safety Media & Communications
An email from one of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Community Resource officers, warning about the dangers of “Drano bombs,” has gone viral.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve fielded calls from news agencies, government offices and community leaders asking if the threat is “for real” and trying to gauge the extent of the problem. One of my neighbors called, asking if it’s safe to pick up a Pepsi bottle someone tossed in the front yard.
The answer is: yes, it’s probably safe. If the bottle looks like a normal bottle, go ahead and toss it in the trash.
But if it looks swollen or misshapen—as if it might burst—leave it alone and call 911.
Drano bombs, also called “bottle bombs,” are nothing new. Made from a few basic household items, they explode when gas generated by a chemical reaction inside the capped bottle builds to a breaking point. Our Arson & Bomb Unit says they’ve been around for years; typically, they’re constructed by juveniles fooling around with stuff they ought to leave alone.
Baltimore County is not experiencing a Drano bomb epidemic.
There were 13 Drano bomb cases in all of 2011. So far this year, police have documented six incidents involving the devices – two in the White Marsh precinct; one in the Franklin precinct; and, last week, three in the North Point precinct. Officers in the bomb squad say they typically see an uptick in these incidents at this time of year, just after school lets out.
The Franklin incident involved the arrest of a 13-year-old boy. One of the North Point incidents occurred in the Dundalk High gymnasium and involved arrest of an 18-year-old student. In a different North Point incident, one person suffered minor injuries.
The lack of serious injuries is good news, because Drano bombs can cause severe injury, especially if they’re placed in a mailbox or other container that can turn to shrapnel if the device goes off.
The catch-22 in all this is that efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of Drano bombs may entice some kids (or adults) into experimenting with them. Such would-be pranksters should know that the law puts Drano bombs in the same category as the pipe bombs terrorists use. Building, setting off or possessing a Drano bomb is a felony; conviction can land you in jail for up to 25 years and/or cost you up to $250,000 in fines.