The Virginia Department of Emergency Management urges residents to be safe during clean up and recovery efforts in the wake of severe storms that affected the state on Saturday night.
Injuries can happen when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. Common causes of injury include falling objects and heavy, rolling objects. Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines or electrical systems, there is a risk of fire, electrocution or explosion. Protecting yourself and your family requires promptly treating any injuries suffered during the storm and using care to avoid further hazards.
Here are some safety precautions that could help you avoid injury after a tornado:
—Continue to monitor the news for emergency information.
—Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
—Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
—Wear safety glasses or protective eye wear when working with debris to avoid eye injury.
—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.
—Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
—Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper, or even outside near an open window, door or vent. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you breathe it. The gas can build up in your home, garage or camper and poison the people and animals inside. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.
—Cooperate with public safety officials.
—Respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, fire fighters, emergency management and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested. Your presence could hamper relief efforts and you could endanger yourself.
After a tornado has passed, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.
—In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
—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.
During cleanup, be sure to practice safety precautions:
—Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves.
—Learn proper safety procedures and operating instructions before operating any gas-powered or electric-powered saws or tools.
—Clean up spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids and other potentially hazardous materials.
—Use caution or seek professional assistance when removing fallen trees, clearing debris or using equipment such as chain saws.
—Avoid lifting material weighing more than 50 pounds per person.
—Perishable foods, including meats, dairy products and eggs, that haven’t been refrigerated for more than two hours should be discarded because they are no longer safe to consume.
For more information, go to VDEM’s website, www.vaemergency.com.