Hurricane Safety Precautions
Hurricane season officially begins June 1 and ends November 30. The Alabama Department of Public Health recommends all families that live in affected areas take health and safety precautions in connection with a current hurricane. Read below for hurricane safety precautions relating to flooding, injury prevention, animals, carbon monoxide, and food safety.
For more information on hurricanes and how to take action, visit the following websites:
- Public Health's Get 10 - Get Ready for Emergencies
- Homeland Security's Ready America
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Weather Service
Power outages associated with a hurricane can cause concerns about the safety of frozen and refrigerated foods. The Alabama Department of Public Health advises that 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 shut 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.
Carbon monoxide (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 suspect symptoms occur.
- Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
- 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.
- 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.
Stray animals can pose a danger during a hurricane. Most animals are disoriented and displaced, so do not corner an animal. If an animal must be removed, contact your local animal control authorities.
Certain animals may carry rabies; therefore, care should be taken to avoid contact with stray animals and rodents. If you are bitten by an animal seek immediate medical attention as soon as possible.
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 a 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.
The Alabama Department of Public Health 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 car while you are driving, continue to drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not turn off the ignition. Stay in your car and wait for emergency personnel. Do not allow anyone other than emergency personnel to approach your vehicle.
Flooding from hurricanes may result in contaminants from various sources being washed into streams, creeks, rivers and coastal waters. These waters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems as well as other contaminants from a variety of sources.
The Alabama Department of Public Health urges persons to use caution when coming into contact with these waters.
Although skin contact with flood waters does not by itself pose a serious health risk, there is a risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water. If one has open cuts or sores that will be exposed to flood water, keep them as clean as possible by washing well with soap to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.
Also, any fish or seafood caught from these waters should be thoroughly cooked prior to consumption. After handling fish and seafood, persons are reminded to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and clean water.
Page last updated: April 13, 2017