Tips for staying safe during storm cleanup

Emergency departments often see more injuries from storm cleanup than from the storm itself.

Five patients were seen in Sentara CarePlex Hospital's minor care unit for storm-related injuries, including lacerations from falling on a hand saw and a broken toe, and Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center's emergency department was treating someone with a chain saw injury, Sentara spokesman Dale Gauding said.

Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital's emergency department in Newport News was busier than usual Sunday.

Some of the most common injuries are from chain saws, electrocution and falls, said Dr. Frank Counselman, who works at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with Emergency Physicians of Tidewater and teaches atEastern Virginia Medical School.

Counselman offers these tips to keep yourself safe:

•Power lines are often tangled in branches of fallen trees, so you may not see them. Be certain the trees and branches you're cutting are clear of power lines before you start.

•Eye injuries caused by flying wood chips and other debris are among the most common after a storm. Wear eye and ear protection around chain saws. Ear protection can keep your ears from ringing and help avoid permanent hearing damage.

•Kickbacks from chain saws can cause serious wounds or amputations. Make sure the chain saw is in good working condition and that the chain is sharpened and properly mounted and lubricated. Wear long pants, heavy gloves, eye and ear protection and work boots even if it's hot out.

•More than half a million Americans fall from ladders every year. To protect yourself, set up a ladder on a firm, level surface, not on soft ground. Stay below the top rungs. Keep extension ladders at a safe angle and use a stabilizer bar at the top. Keep your body between the vertical rails, and do not reach more than a foot to either side. Wear sturdy shoes, and steer clear of power lines.

"Before you tackle a post-hurricane project at unfamiliar heights and with heavy tools, objectively assess your skills and physical limitations to be certain you are up to the task," Counselman said. "Whoever came up with the phrase, 'Do not try this at home,' must have been thinking of do-it-yourselfers. Some jobs are best left to professionals."

Also, the health department warns residents not to run generators in garages. Generators need to be outside, away from windows and doors, so carbon monoxide doesn't get into the house.

"It's invisible, it's colorless, it's odorless," spokeswoman Michelle Peregoy said. "You don't see it, you don't smell it, and it's too late."

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and drowsiness.

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