Cleaning up after a major storm includes hidden dangers. Often, people in a rush to clean or repair suffer unnecessary injuries.
Late Monday, Hurricane Isaias caused widespread damage with fires, tornadoes and widespread power outages across Brunswick County.
Dr. David Rentz of the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center emergency department offers tips to dealing with some common dangers of post-hurricane cleanups:
Many folks vault up a ladder to deal with low-hanging tree limbs, windows or something on a roof. But the ground is often unstable due to heavy rain, or it may be uneven. Or both.
The solutions: Never climb a ladder alone. “Always have someone, or two people, holding the ladder at the bottom for stability,” Rentz said. “If it looks too risky, don’t do it. If it’s something you don’t normally do, don’t do it now.”
Fallen trees and large limbs often call for chainsaws, a powerful tool that many folks don’t have experience operating. “It’s a tool that can kick back and cause a deep laceration,” Rentz said. “Those injuries tend to be pretty bad.”
The solutions: Unless you have chainsaw experience, leave it to a professional. If you do cut, always follow manufacturer’s instructions. Wear the appropriate protective gear – hard hat, goggles, heavy gloves and boots, ear protection. Make sure that bystanders are a safe distance away (at least 150 feet). Do not cut or trim a tree near power lines. Always cut at waist level or lower. Clear the wood you cut as you work to prevent possible stumbles while carrying the saw.
3. Lifting and falls
Storm cleanup often involves moving objects that are heavy, sometimes over long distances or up and down slopes. Rentz said over-doing it can lead to back strains and other injuries, and falls on wet ground have resulted in broken ankles and wrists.
The solutions: Be careful in wet areas that have eroded or where potholes may have formed. Squat if you pick up something heavy, instead of bending over. Don’t carry heavy items on a slope. Tread carefully. “Use situational awareness,” Rentz said.
Water damage can cause mold to develop within 24 hours on walls, floors, carpeting and furniture. Exposure to mold is dangerous, especially for people with asthma and other respiratory problems.
The solutions: Open doors and windows to ventilate the area with fresh air. Wear goggles, gloves and a respirator during cleanup.
5. Downed power lines
Power lines create risk for electrocution and burns. Water – even small puddles – can conduct electricity that can injure you. Wood and cloth, when wet, also can carry electricity.
The solutions: Assume every power line is live. Never touch water or any objects near a power line (downed or otherwise). Contact the utility company for a repair. Mark off the danger zone with cones or garbage cans to alert other people.
6. Peskier pests
With trees down and general damage everywhere, lots of bug nests end up getting destroyed. That can mean new opportunities for bug stings and bites.
The solutions: Slather on the repellent and keep an eye out.