Staying Safe After the Storm
Because we still have over two months to go before the end of hurricane season, we at Tommy Williams Homes in Gainesville want you to know it’s not time to breathe a sigh of relief just yet.
In our last blog, we outlined some preparations you can take to ensure you and your home are prepared for hurricanes. But experts say that people are more likely lose their lives after the storm than during its height.
This is such a serious problem, in fact, that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled a lengthy bulletin on how to clean up safely after a disaster.
Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe during post-storm recovery.
Keep yourself healthy
First of all, go slowly with cleanup activities because sudden strenuous physical activity can be dangerous. Post-storm heart attacks are a frequent cause of deaths after a hurricane. Don’t try to do too much at once. Take frequent breaks, and be sure to stay hydrated. Water dilutes the blood, making it less likely to form clots.
Drink water even when you’re not thirsty, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion: heavy sweating, weakness, cold or pale clammy skin, a fast or weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, or fainting. Symptoms of heat stroke include a high body temperature, hot, red, dry, or moist skin, a rapid and strong pulse, and—eventually—unconsciousness.
Watch out when outdoors
Flood waters are another concern. There may be considerable standing water after the storm passes, containing numerous hidden hazards.
Aside from the oil, gas, and household chemicals that have been washed into these waters, they will be loaded with fecal matter from agricultural runoff, as well as human and animal waste, not to mention deceased animals.
Protect yourself from the water as much as possible with boots and hip-waders if you can obtain them. If you can’t, be sure to thoroughly wash any exposed areas as soon as possible after contact. Flood waters can contain such pathogens as fungi, viruses, and bacteria, specifically hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid, among other serious illnesses.
Another danger that may be hidden beneath standing water is physical: either sharp objects or holes, such as missing manhole covers, root holes where trees used to be, or small sinkholes hidden in murky water.
Take care with chain saws. When cutting “spring poles”—that is, trees or branches that have become twisted or bent with the swirling winds and are waiting to be suddenly released—the CDC recommends you identify the maximum point of tension on the spring pole and slowly shave the underside of the tree to allow the tension to release slowly. Also, always cut at waist level or below to maintain control over the chain saw.
Beware dangers indoors
Then there are the hazards lurking within your home. One of the most deadly of these is carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators, which kills 70 people a year and injures countless more, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
The CDC advises people to keep generators at least 20 feet away from homes. And never try to use a grill inside the home or other enclosed space.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warns residents to have their home inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering if they have any doubts about its integrity. Look for natural gas leaks, sparks, broken or frayed wires, and roof, foundation, or chimney cracks.
DHS also cautions people to be on the lookout for misplaced and/or frightened animals that may have taken up residence in the home or nearby, including snakes, opossums, or raccoons. Call animal control if such creatures refuse to leave the home.
If floodwaters entered your home, they have brought along the contamination mentioned above. Drapes, furniture, clothing, wallpaper, drywall, and carpeting—anything porous—will be contaminated and should be discarded. Be sure to wear gloves and a breathing mask when performing these tasks. And take care with the debris itself, which will be filled with sharp and broken objects.
Mold will also be an issue throughout the home. The CDC says that mold can begin to grow in as little as one or two days, so all surfaces touched by flood waters should be scrubbed thoroughly with bleach. Use one teaspoon of bleach to a gallon of water, and never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner, or use bleach in a non-ventilated area.
Hurricanes and other natural disasters are unfortunately becoming more common, but keeping these tips in mind can help you weather them safely. For a more complete list of after-storm activities, see the CDC’s recommendations and the DHS’s.
And when you’re ready to move up to a home built for sustainable living, look to Tommy Williams Homes for intelligent design, responsible construction, and leading-edge energy efficiency.