Typically, more deaths occur after a hurricane than during. These deaths come from people being too anxious to get outside and survey the damage where they come into contact with downed power lines or unstable trees, etc. Follow these suggestions for staying safe after the hurricane:
ALL CLEAR – “Beware”
- Stay indoors until the authorities declare the storm is over. Note that the All Clear announcement may not be made immediately the storm passes because conditions may still make general movement unsafe.
- Help injured or trapped persons, but …Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Give first aid, where appropriate. Clearance, search and rescue and other emergency vehicles will go out as soon as conditions allow.
- Call 911 or 949-6555 for help.
- Do not touch loose or damaged wires or anything that is touching them.
- Do not step in pools of water where such wires could be grounded.
- Avoid trees, signs, buildings and other structures that appear damaged.
- Do not go sightseeing; you may interfere with rescue work.
- If you have been away from home, do not return until advised by the authorities that it is safe to do so.
- Be very careful about entering your home.
- Beware of scorpions or other insects driven from their usual habitat by floodwaters.
- Electrical - Do not turn on the main electrical switch until you have checked the system for damage. If you see sparks, or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or
circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, contact an electrician first for advice.
- Water and sewage – Check for water and sewage lines damage. If you suspect the sewage lines or cesspool are damaged, avoid flushing the toilets. Contact a plumber.
- Property and utility damage - Make a list of damage to your property.
- Report fallen electricity poles and wires to CUC, damaged phone lines to Cable and Wireless, and broken water mains to the Water Authority or Cayman Water. There is a public sewage system along West Bay Road. If you live in that area and suspect sewage line damage, call the Water Authority.
- Before starting clean-up, take pictures of damage, inside and out. They will be important documentation for any insurance claim.
- Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
- If there has been window or roof damage, try to protect your home from further rain damage by covering exposed areas with tarpaulin.
- Continue to drink bottled water until your regular water supply has been tested safe.
- Check refrigerated foods for spoilage. Throw away any ford that has come in contact with flood water as this may be contaminated
- Listen for official information from the National Hurricane Committee. Such information will include locations of post-hurricane shelters, and arrangements for relief and medical services.
- Use telephone for emergencies only.
- Stay away from dikes. The banks of dikes often become soaked and unstable due to heavy rainfall and flood water and can suddenly give way.
Beware of unstable structures Never assume that water-damaged structures or ground are stable. Buildings that have been submerged or have withstood rushing flood waters may have suffered structural damage and could be dangerous. Don't work in or around any flood-damaged building until it has been examined and certified as:
- Safe for work by a registered professional engineer or architect.
- Assume all stairs, floors, and roofs are unsafe until they are inspected.
- Leave immediately if you see or feel shifting or hear any unusual noises. These signal a possible collapse.
Tiredness can lead to injuries
Continued long hours of work, combined with exhaustion, can create a highly stressful situation during cleanup. People working on hurricane cleanup can reduce their risks of injury and illness in several ways:
- Set priorities for cleanup tasks and pace the work. Try not to get totally exhausted.
- Resume a normal sleep schedule as quickly as possible.
- Be alert to emotional exhaustion or strain.
- Consult family members, friends or professionals for emotional support.
Carbon Monoxide Can Kill!
Carbon monoxide (CO) gas is poisonous to breathe and is even more dangerous because it cannot be smelt or seen. CO is formed in the exhaust of Gasoline-powered devices such as generators, pumps and pressure washers, as well as by using camp stoves or charcoal grills or coal pots/stoves. These items are commonly used in the aftermath of a storm if there is a power outage.
To be safe:
- Use these items outdoors, never indoors.
- If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using or near a generator, pumps, pressure washers, camp stoves or charcoal stoves get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY. DO NOT DELAY.
- Carbon monoxide can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death.
- If you experience serious symptoms go to the hospital immediately and inform medical staff that CO poisoning is suspected.
Portable electric generators offer great benefits but can be hazardous if used improperly. They can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution and fires. Follow these safety tips on the proper use of generators:
Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
- NEVER use generators indoors, including in homes, garages, and other enclosed or partiallyenclosedm areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.
- Only operate the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home, and protected from direct exposure to rain, preferably under a canopy, open shed, or carport.
- Install battery-operated certified CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
- Keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions. To protect from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Dry your hands if wet before touching the generator.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator. Or use a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
- NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “backfeeding”. This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
- If you must connect the generator to house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician make the appropriate connection.
- Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
- Do not over-fill the tank; only fill to level line or about 90% of the tank’s capacity.
- Refuel generators in a well ventilated area and clean up all spills before restarting the machine, or move it from the refuelling area.
- Check for leaks before starting the generator. If the generator is giving problems get it repaired by a mechanic.
Handling Hazardous Chemicals
- Store used oil, solvents and batteries in a safe and secure location outside of the home before transporting to the landfill.
- Always protect yourself from chemical burns by wearing work gloves and work shoes when handling dangerous chemicals and batteries.
Gasoline and diesel
- Never drink water from a container that has held gasoline or diesel. Gasoline contains an ingredient that is known to be capable of causing cancer.
- Never siphon gas by mouth or put gasoline in your mouth for any reason. Gasoline can be fatal if swallowed. If someone does swallow gas do not induce vomiting. Contact a doctor immediately.
- Separate gasoline, oil, solvents, lubricants and household cleaners in secured containers for storage.
- Store gasoline only in containers made for the purpose. These are of red plastic and have “UL®“ imprinted on them. This is an international symbol that lets you know the container is safe for gasoline. Hardware and supply stores sell these containers.
- Other containers such as glass bottles, soda cans, bleach bottles, etc., used to store gasoline can break or leak.
- Don’t store gasoline containers in the same place as a fuel-burning appliance. Gasoline vapors can travel invisibly along the ground and catch afire from pilot lights or arcs caused by activating electric switches.
- When filling the container place it on the ground to avoid fuel vapours catching fire because of static electricity.
- Never fill a container with gas when it is inside a vehicle, in the back of a pickup truck or on the floor of a trailer.
- Make sure containers are secure with lids before transporting.
- Keep batteries upright and place side by side without stacking to prevent leakage.
- Don’t dump battery acid – instead store it in an appropriate container.
- If battery acid spills on your skin rinse immediately with soap and water.
- Battery acid spilt on clothing ruins clothing and cannot be removed – discard these clothes.
In-home Fire Safety Tips
- Avoid using open flames such as candles or kerosene lamps for lighting as these carry a great risk of starting a fire. Flashlights provide the safest light. If you have no choice follow the tips below:
- always place candles on fire resistant holders or in containers made for such use
- keep candles away from open windows and doors, curtains, paper towel holders, tablecloths etc.
- never leave candles unattended
- never allow children to play around lit candles
- always extinguish candles before going to sleep
- Keep lighters and matches in a safe place and away from children.
- Make sure matches are properly snuffed out before throwing away.
Gas stoves & gas lanterns
- Before using, make sure anyone who will be in using the stove knows how to operate it. Read the instruction manual.
- Never use in enclosed room; always ensure proper ventilation is available
- To avoid the build up of gas in a gas stove or lantern always light the match or lighter and hold it to the burner before turning on the valve.
- Never allow children to operate a gas stove
- Keep all combustible materials such as towels, paper holders, pot holders etc, away from stove when in use
- Never leave a lit stove unattended
- Propane cylinders used for cooking must be kept outside of building. This includes the small 20-lb cylinders.
- Always turn off cylinder after each use.
Grills and Charcoal stoves
- Keep lighter fluid away from burning coals, and other open flames
- Never use a grill inside the home
- Make sure coals are properly snuffed out after each use.
- Refuel oil lamps in a ventilated area and clean up any spills before lighting.
- Move the lamp away from the area where it was refueled.
- Keep lamps away from any possible moving objects such as curtains, fans etc.
- always ensure that your home has adequate fire extinguishers
- learn how to use extinguishers before they are needed
- always store gasoline/petrol in proper storage containers, away from flames and outside of the home
- Make sure your home is equipped with at least one working smoke detector.