In the aftermath of a hurricane, severe thunderstorm, tornado, or flood, all you want to do is get back to normal. Cleaning up after a storm is a big job, and it can also be dangerous. As you are cleaning up your yard, your farm, or the inside and outside of your home, remember that safety should always come first.
Here are some quick tips for how to safely clean up after a storm:
- Wear proper safety apparel.
- Stay away from power lines.
- Prepare for fires.
- Never use candles or matches for light.
- Stay away from damaged buildings or structures.
- Never operate gasoline-powered equipment indoors.
- Avoid over-exertion.
- Remove water saturated materials.
- Do not cross rushing water.
- Stay cool.
What to Wear
As you are cleaning up, make sure you are wearing proper protection to prevent injury. Work gloves, safety glasses, heavy-duty work shirt with long sleeves, work pants, and steel-toe work boots are a good idea if you are working on clearing large amounts of broken, splintered, or sharp debris. If you are operating a chainsaw, wear ear protection, a helmet, and protective chaps or trousers, and a protective chainsaw jacket. Johnsered makes a line of high quality chainsaw safety apparel that all chainsaw owners should consider.
If you are cleaning up after a flood or heavy rain, consider wearing high-quality rubber boots, such as Muck Boots or another type of high-top rubber boot you can wear in up to 12 inches of water. Rubber boots not only keep your feet dry and warm; they also protect your feet from snake bites, leeches, or other critters that bite.
Stay Clear of Power Lines
Always stay away from power lines, even if you think there is no electricity. If you see a power line on the ground near water, stay especially far away from any water that could conduct electricity from the power line. Electricity can travel through water and cause electric shock if any part of your body is exposed.
Downed power lines pose a particularly dangerous threat in areas where there are lots of people trying to clear fallen trees and branches from roads and lawns. Let the professionals handle this job. It’s not worth the risk.
If you see a downed power line that is sparking or on fire, call your local power company immediately.
Be Prepared for Fires
When storms or flooding has damaged gas and electrical lines, the risk of fires is greatly increased. As you are cleaning up after a storm, always have a fire extinguisher nearby.
Use Flashlights, Not Candles
When checking for damage to a home, never use matches, candles, lighters, or kerosene lanterns as a light source. Igniting a flame while near damaged gas lines can cause an explosion.
Avoid Structurally Damaged Buildings
If a building has been subjected to rushing flood waters or submerged underwater may not be structurally safe. It’s best to stay away from these types of structures until professionals can assess the extent of the damage.
Keep Gas Powered Equipment Outside
Never operate power equipment such as generators, pressure washers, water pumps, and other equipment with a gasoline-powered engine indoors. Gas engines emit carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, and poisonous gas you should never breathe.
Yes, there is a lot of work to do, but don’t over-exert yourself trying to get it all done in a hurry. To avoid back and muscle injuries, move and haul heavy objects with a team of people, or use an automated lifting device such as a pallet jack, electric lift, utility cart, or furniture dolly. Consider wearing a support belt to reduce stress on your lower back.
When working around flood waters, it is important to remember to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching flood water. Flood water can contain contaminants and pathogens from ruptured sewage lines or waste water holding tanks.
If your home has been flooded, remove all soiled furniture, fabrics, and drywall. Even though these materials would dry out eventually, they are now contaminated with mold and other bacteria that will continue to spread throughout your home if not removed promptly. Mold in the home can cause severe health issues and should not be taken lightly.
Avoid Rushing Water
When there is flooding, avoid entering rushing water on foot or in a vehicle. As little as one foot of rushing water can exert a large amount of force, and you don’t want to find yourself stranded in the middle of rising water or swept away as you are trying to evacuate or save others. Stay on dry land as much as possible. If you need to escape rising water, try to move to the second floor of a building, climb on top of a sturdy structure, or climb up a tree.
Avoid Heat Exhaustion
When working outside in the summer, heat exhaustion can become a real issue, especially if you aren’t accustomed to this type of work. When cleaning up after a storm, be sure to take lots of breaks, drink lots of water, and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes. If you can, work during the coolest parts of the day, including early morning and late afternoon.