When the winds die down and the downpours stop, the worst of the storm is not necessarily over.
So remain vigilant and cautious. Many people survive a storm only to die in accidents after it passes.
Of the more than 70 Floridians who died after 2004's Charley, Frances and Ivan, many were victims of the aftermath. They were killed by downed trees and power lines as well as falling debris, power failures, carbon-monoxide poisoning and tumbles from trees, roofs and ladders. The same was true when Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida in 2005.
So be cautious. Be careful of the matches you light, what you climb onto, where you walk. Don't drive unless you know the roads have been cleared. Indeed, stay at home unless you absolutely must be out.
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Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe:
▪ Stay inside until the storm has completely passed.
▪ Stay well clear of any downed wires. Do not step in any puddles. Remember that power lines are likely to be down and hidden in water.
▪ Be careful where you step. Watch out for snakes, wildlife and insects that have been driven to higher ground.
▪ Keep your pets inside as much as possible.
▪ Don't go outside with bare feet. Floodwater is contaminated by animal waste, overflowing septic tanks, oil and all sorts of other debris. There's also construction debris - bits of metal, boards with nails, shards of glass and chunks of concrete that can puncture or cut your feet.
▪ Stay off the road until winds are under 39 mph.
▪ Stay away from disaster areas; don't sightsee.
▪ Approach every intersection without a working traffic light as though it is a four-way stop. If two or more vehicles reach the intersection at the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left yields to the driver on the right.
▪ Be careful of driving through water. It may be deeper than you think and you may stall or damage your car.
▪ Beware of the possibility of traffic lights or utility poles falling.
▪ To report a downed power line or lost electricity, call FPL at 800-4-OUTAGE.
▪ Do not touch the line or go near it as it may be energized. Stay away from transformers.
▪ If the electricity goes out, open the refrigerator and freezer only when necessary.
▪ If your electricity is out, unplug all appliances except a clock. When power returns, electrical surges can damage appliances and electrical equipment and cause fires.
▪ Standing water near electrical outlets can create unsafe conditions. Check appliances for water damage and make sure cords aren't wet before you plug them in. If you plug in an appliance and the circuit breaker trips, a fuse blows or you smell a burning odor, unplug it immediately and make an emergency call to an electrician.
▪ Use flashlights, not candles.
▪ Do not operate grills or generators indoors. Generators and grills pose the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The odorless, tasteless and potentially lethal gas easily can seep into rooms.
▪ Don't light barbecues or install generators on high-rise balconies.
▪ Use a heavy-duty extension cord to plug appliances into the generator.
▪ Do not connect the generator to the home wiring system, such as through a fuse box or circuit breaker. The power can flow outside the house to the power lines and injure workers.
▪ Don't exceed the recommended wattage. Don't try to run the air conditioner unless you're sure your generator can handle it.
▪ Generators should be cool before you add more gasoline. If you spill fuel on a hot muffler, it might ignite.
CHAIN SAW SAFETY
▪ Chain saws are considered the most dangerous hand tool available. The risk of injury increases during hurricane cleanup when chain saws are widely used to remove trees and branches.
▪ Follow instruction manuals carefully to ensure safe operation and proper equipment maintenance.
▪ Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.
▪ Keep both hands on the handles. Many chain saw injuries affect the hands and are the result of using the saw with just one hand.
▪ Cut at waist level or below. Chain saw injuries to the head often result from making overhead cuts.
▪ Take extra care when cutting limbs that are twisted or caught under another object. They may snap back and hit you or pinch the saw.
▪ Take the time to do the job right. Most injuries affect the legs and feet and are the result of aggressive or careless cutting. Take breaks when needed, because most injuries occur when workers are fatigued.
▪ Shut off equipment when fueling the saw or carrying it a distance of more than 100 feet, or through slippery areas or heavy brush.
▪ Be sure the chain saw operator is aware of your presence before you approach. Chain saw operators often cannot see or hear the approach of other people.
▪ To avoid kickback, do not cut with the upper tip of the chain saw. Kickback occurs when the upper tip for the guide bar contacts an object and causes the saw to come straight back at the operator.
▪ Never taste food to determine whether it's spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out. If you have questions about which foods to throw out, call the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hot Line, toll-free, at 800-535-4555.
▪ Throw out any food that gets wet from flooding, including produce. Cans that get wet should be rinsed off in clean water before they are opened.
▪ If the power's off for only one or two days and your freezer is full, the food probably will stay frozen if you keep the door closed.
▪ If the power comes on and the freezer temperature has stayed at or below 40 degrees and the food still contains ice crystals, it can be refrozen safely. Assess each item individually. * Not all food spoils uniformly. Meats and dairy products are usually the first to go. Fresh vegetables may wilt a little but be fine to eat. Use common sense and your sense of smell.
▪ Foods that spoil first: Milk, meat, fish, yogurt, cooked pasta, meat-topped pizzas and mayonnaise.
▪ Items than can be kept without refrigeration for a few days: butter, margarine, fruit juices.
▪ Items that can be kept without refrigeration for about a week: Hard or processed cheeses, fresh herbs (keep in water, like flowers), bread, cakes and muffins, tortillas, shelf-stable pizza crusts, guava paste, apples, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, carrots, celery, tomatoes, bananas, plantains, malanga, boniato and iceberg lettuce. Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and garlic will keep longer.
▪ Condiments and seasonings can be kept without refrigeration after opening if they have never been refrigerated.
▪ If refrigerated food thawed completely but was kept at 40 degrees or below, it can be cooked, then refrozen.
If your city or county issues a boil-water order after the storm, you can still use tap water for bathing, but be careful if you have cuts or scrapes. Use purified water for brushing your teeth, drinking and cooking.
Here are ways to disinfect water to kill disease-carrying microorganisms:
▪ Boiling: It's safest. Bring water to a roiling boil for 10 minutes. It will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring it back and forth between two clean containers.
▪ Chlorination: Add 8 drops of unscented liquid chlorine laundry bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes.
▪ Purification: These tablets, available at most sporting goods stores and some pharmacies, release chlorine or iodine. Follow package directions.
▪ State restrictions on medication refills have been lifted temporarily, allowing consumers to refill medication prescriptions so they can have an adequate supply.
▪ An emergency order issued by the Office of Insurance Regulation requires insurers and HMOs to pay pharmacies for at least a 30-day supply of medication regardless of the date the last prescription was refilled.
▪ Insulin is often kept in the refrigerator, but it can safely be stored at room temperature for up to 28 days.
▪ If you need a refill on prescription medicine and your pharmacy is closed, take your empty pill bottle to any open pharmacy. Most will provide an emergency supply of enough pills for a few days.
▪ If you have heart trouble, be cautious not to overexert yourself during post-storm cleanup.