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Safety issues are prime concerns following tornadoes and floods

Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Oklahoma TornadoMore than half of tornado-related injuries in one situation came during rescue attempts and clean-up work, according to a recent Federal Emergency Management Agency study. As Tennessee moves into its prime tornado and flooding season, officials with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency remind residents to think about health and safety after a disaster occurs.

“We traditionally emphasize how to prepare for a disaster, including having a personal survival kit and a plan of action to be self-sufficient for 72 hours, but it’s just as important to talk about what you should do after a tornado or flood occurs,” said Stephen May, MD, medical director for the TDH Emergency Preparedness Program.

Some others tips offered by TEMA and TDH emergency preparedness staff members include:

• Monitor your battery powered radio or use your cell phone at short intervals. Using either continuously will quickly drain the power supply. Stay off your phone unless it is critical for you to make a call to help prevent telephone communications channels from being overused.

• Use battery-powered lights instead of candles. If you must use a candle, be sure there is not a gas leak nearby and stay away from flammable materials.

• Be aware generators, stoves, grills and other devices may produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, deadly gas. Avoid using them in enclosed spaces.

• If you must enter a damaged structure, wear heavy-soled shoes, a long sleeved shirt and pants and gloves.

• Always comply with requests from public safety officials and stay away from damaged areas unless you have been called upon to help. Sometimes well-meaning volunteers can hamper emergency response work.

• Shut off power to your home at the main circuit breaker if you suspect any damage. If you smell the odor of rotten eggs, notify police immediately of a potential gas leak.

• If you are not familiar with power tools and chain saws, let someone else use them for clean-up work.

• If you see any spilled medicines or potentially dangerous chemicals, be cautious in cleaning those up yourself. Cover them if possible until professional help arrives.

Individuals may consider online FEMA Community Emergency Response Team training to be better prepared for challenges after a disaster. For more information about training, visit