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Overall Safety Tips After the Hurricane

From Syndi Bultman, Lee Health’s Injury Prevention/Resource Coordinator of Trauma Services

Our community is still cleaning up from Hurricane Ian and that cleanup is going to continue for a long time, as our area works diligently to get back to normal.

Many are still working to clean up fallen trees, sheds, in addition to dealing with standing water.

Here is what to look out for, what to wear, what to know and what to do if you need to seek medical care.

General Hurricane Clean Up Safety Tips

  • Watch for rusty nails and metal in items being cleared for trash
  • Stay out of standing water; it can contain bacteria and fecal matter from runoff
  • Pools need to be cleaned of debris before use and chemicals should be adjusted
  • If the pool cage is missing, make sure there is a protective barrier such as a fence around the pool
  • Make sure you’re up-to-date on your Tetanus immunization
  • Watch for signs of hyperthermia—cool down immediately if symptoms persist and call 911

Hyperthermia is when your body’s core temperature starts to rise and it can come on in three stages: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Some hyperthermia symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness or fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle aches or cramps

Wear Protective Clothing

It’s best to wear protective clothing while picking up hurricane debris to not only protect your skin from cuts and scrapes, but to also protect it from harmful bacteria that’s lurking in standing water. Even though it’s hot outside, we recommend long pants and long sleeves. Use gloves to protect your hands and waterproof boots if you’re working in standing water. Wash hands well with soap and water when you’re done and pay extra attention to cuts, one of the easiest ways for bacteria to get into your body.

Depending on the type of cleanup you’re doing (if it’s more involved), you may want to also consider wearing hardhats and goggles.

Use a Chainsaw Properly

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, many of us are dealing with the cleanup of vast amounts of felled trees. One of the easiest ways to handle that cleanup is to use a chainsaw. However, if proper safety protocols aren’t in place, there is always a risk of injury when using a chainsaw to cut down trees. Each year, approximately 36,000 people end up in emergency departments for treatment of a chainsaw injury. Hurricanes and other natural disasters can only increase those numbers.

Here are some ways to stay safe:

  • Wear proper protective clothing and glasses
  • Choose the proper sized chainsaw for the job
  • Be sure that bystanders are at a safe distance from cutting activities
  • Take extra care when cutting “spring poles” trees or branches that have been bent, twisted, hung up on or caught under another object during a high wind
  • Check the area for possible hazards
  • Check for nails in the wood itself
  • Avoid contact with power lines
  • As you work, clear the area of cut limbs and wood
  • Always cut at waist level or below
  • Maintain secure control over the chainsaw
  • If an injury occurs, apply direct pressure over sites of heavy bleeding
  • Stay hydrated and drink water before starting an activity and every 20 minutes while doing the activity

Some Other Things to Remember

Remember to pace yourself. It’s hot outside and this type of cleanup is going to take a while. It’s best to pace ourselves so we don’t put too much of a strain on our bodies. This is a slow and steady process, but we are all in this together.

It’s easier to decide which cleanup tasks are most important and start there so you don’t get overwhelmed. Remember to take breaks when you need to. Ask for help lifting heavy and bulky objects if it’s too much of a strain on your body. And get support from friends and family when you need it.

Things will slowly improve each day. Remember to take care of yourselves. If it becomes overwhelming and you need to talk with someone, call the 988 suicide/crisis helpline.