Follow safety precautions to protect your family following storms
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) recommends the public be prepared for the possibility of destructive storms and tornadoes and stay aware of weather conditions. State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris urges Alabamians to listen and follow all health and safety warnings communicated through the news media.
To protect yourself and your family in power outages that often follow storms, take care with frozen and refrigerated foods and be alert to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning that results from improper generator and heating device use. Chain saw and other injuries often occur when fallen tress and debris must be cleared, and special care should be taken with animals during and after storms.
Some storm safety tips follow.
Power outages associated with tornado force winds can cause concerns about the safety of frozen and refrigerated foods. As a general rule, a full upright or chest freezer will keep foods frozen for about two days without power.
A partially full freezer will keep foods frozen for about one day. This time may be extended by keeping the door shut. A refrigerator will keep foods cool for four to six hours if the door is kept closed as much as possible.
Any thawed foods that have been at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded. Foods still containing ice crystals can be refrozen, although the quality of the food may decrease. Foods that have thawed to refrigerator temperatures (that is, no more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit) can also be cooked and then refrozen.
The public should never use generators, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, basement, garage or camper--or even outside near an open window. Keep these devices at least 20 feet away from any door, window or vent and use a battery-operated or battery back-up carbon monoxide (CO) detector any time you use one of these devices.
CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if breathed. When power outages occur during emergencies such as hurricanes, people often try to use alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling or cooking. CO from these sources can build up in a home, garage or camper and poison the people and animals inside. Look to friends or a community shelter for help. If you must use an alternative source of fuel or electricity, be sure to use it only outside and away from open windows.
Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms. Consult a health care professional right away if these symptoms occur.
- Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.
- Never run a generator, pressure washer or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
- Always set up a generator at least 20 feet from your home, doors, windows, and vents. Follow the advice linked here:
a. English: https://www.cdc.gov/co/pdfs/generators.pdf
b. Spanish: https://www.cdc.gov/co/pdfs/flyers_Spanish.pdf
- Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window or door where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
- Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a closed garage.
The public should follow these safeguards against injury while using a chain saw:
- Operate, adjust and maintain the saw according to manufacturer's instructions provided in the manual accompanying the chain saw.
- Properly sharpen chain saw blades and properly lubricate the blade with bar and chain oil. Additionally, the operator should periodically check and adjust the tension of the chain saw blade to ensure good cutting action.
- Choose the proper size of chain saw to match the job, and include safety features such as a chain brake, front and rear hand guards, stop switch, chain catcher and spark arrester.
- Wear the appropriate protective equipment, including hard hat, safety glasses, hearing protection, heavy work gloves, cut-resistant leg wear (chain saw chaps) that extend from the waist to the top of the foot, and boots which cover the ankle.
- Avoid contact with power lines until the lines are verified as being de-energized.
- Always cut at waist level or below to ensure that you maintain secure control over the chain saw.
- Bystanders or coworkers should remain at least two tree lengths (at least 150 feet) away from anyone felling a tree and at least 30 feet from anyone operating a chain saw to remove limbs or cut a fallen tree.
- If injury occurs, apply direct pressure over site(s) of heavy bleeding; this act may save lives.
In the process of clearing property in tornado-devastated areas, puncture wounds may occur and cause a tetanus infection. Tetanus is a bacterial disease that affects the nervous system and can be fatal. Tetanus bacteria can enter the body through a tiny splinter, bug bites, or a scratch from an animal. It is important that workers be current on their tetanus shots (needed every 10 years) due to the risk of injuries, and those who are injured are advised to seek medical attention including a tetanus shot if it has been 10 years or more since they were immunized or if they are unsure of the date when the tetanus shot was last received.
Downed Power Lines
ADPH also recommends that the public use the following guidelines when coming in contact with downed power lines. If power lines are lying on the ground or dangling near the ground, do not touch the lines. Notify your utility company as soon as possible that lines have been damaged, or that the power lines are down, but do not attempt to move or repair the power lines.
Avoid driving through standing water if downed power lines are in the water. If a power line falls across your vehicle while you are driving, continue to drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not turn off the ignition. Stay in your vehicle and wait for emergency personnel. Do not allow anyone other than emergency personnel to approach your vehicle.
Stray animals can pose a danger during a storm. Most animals are disoriented and displaced, so do not corner an animal. Certain animals may carry rabies; therefore, care should be taken to avoid contact with strays. Although rabies is rare, it may be transmitted in Alabama by foxes, bats, raccoons or rarely other animals. If you are bitten by an animal, seek immediate medical attention as soon as possible. If an animal must be removed, contact your local animal control authorities.
For more information on tornado safety, please visit the ADPH Web site at www.alabamapublichealth.gov.
County health departments throughout Alabama provide a wide range of confidential and professional services. Contact your local county health department for additional information.
Mission: To promote, protect, and improve Alabama’s health
Vision: Healthy People. Healthy Communities. Healthy Alabama.
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ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
RSA Tower 201 Monroe Street, Suite 910, Montgomery, AL 36104
Phone: (334) 206-5300 | Fax: (334) 206-5520