Monday, July 02, 2012

Picking Up The Pieces




Severe Weather From Friday’s Derecho

# 6414


Three days after the violent derecho storm front moved across much of the eastern United States killing at least 15 people, hundreds of thousands still remain without power. Complicating matters, many of these stricken areas remain under extreme heat advisories, and more severe weather is possible.



Today’s weather hazards – Source NWS


Residents of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. have been hit particularly hard, and estimates are that some will not see their power restored until the end of the week.


A perfect example of why FEMA, the HHS,, and a host of other agencies continually preach personal preparedness.


Those affected by this storm that have extra food, water, provisions for emergency lighting, a first aid kit, an emergency weather radio, and a family emergency plan are undoubtedly dealing with the aftermath far better than those who were less prepared.




As many are now finding, coping with the damage and misery that comes after the storm has passed can be more demanding than dealing with the initial storm.


This is a dangerous time, during which additional deaths and injuries may occur. So today, a review of some safety information for after the storm passes. 


Perhaps not something that people in the storm afflicted area will be reading today, but hopefully of use for those who may be hit tomorrow, or next month, by the next bout of severe weather.


The Peachtree City, Georgia NOAA weather page has some useful information on after-storm cleanup, including dealing with repair contractors.


This is just an excerpt, follow the link for a lot more:


Safety After the Storm

Here are just a few safety tips...

  • Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
  • If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.
  • If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you have not done so already.
  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or fire departments, or State Fire Marshal's office, and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke, or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.
  • For more information, visit the Centers for Disease and Prevention. They have a wealth of information about what to do in the aftermath of all sorts of events - like tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and many more.


The use of generators, and improvised cooking or heating indoors, often results in (preventable) Carbon Monoxide poisonings.  Each year hundreds of Americans are killed, and thousands affected, by CO poisoning.


In Carbon Monoxide: A Stealthy Killer I wrote in depth on the issue, but a few tips from the CDC include:


Prevention Guidelines
You Can Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure
  • Do have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.
  • Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.
  • Don't use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
  • Don't run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Don't burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn't vented.
  • Don't heat your house with a gas oven.

Food safety after a power outage is another concern after the storm, something I covered back in 2010 in USDA: Food Safety When The Power Goes Out.  

A few excerpts include:


The USDA maintains a Food Safety and Inspection website with a great deal of consumer information about how to protect your food supplies during an emergency, and how to tell when to discard food that may no longer be safe to consume.


First, an audio podcast (5 minutes).

Surviving a Power Outage: Don't Be in the Dark When it Comes to Food Safety (Jun 2, 2010; 4:45) | Script

FSIS Food Safety staff discusses tips on how to be food safe during a power outage.


The USDA also maintains a large repository of food safety information available to be read online, or downloaded as a pdf.


A Consumer's Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes

Note: This text-only version of the Guide has been optimized for accessibility. The illustrated PDF version (2.1MB) is recommended for printing.



Chainsaw accidents figure prominently after many weather-related disasters.  The CDC maintains a chainsaw safety webpage.  Excerpts follow:


Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster
Be aware of the risk of chain saw injury during tree removal

Each year, approximately 36,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries from using chain saws. The potential risk of injury increases after hurricanes and other natural disasters, when chain saws are widely used to remove fallen or partially fallen trees and tree branches.



While it may seem as if the danger has passed once the clouds part, and the sun comes out, the truth is quite the opposite.


Now is a good time to follow these links and print out the information you may need - before the next big storm hits.

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