As a hurricane approaches, here are common mistakes you should avoid
Orange County has some advice for new Florida residents who might fall into making common mistakes in preparation for a storm and the clean-up after.
If you're using a chainsaw be sure to watch a tutorial video on how to operate it before attempting to pull the rip cord and start clearing up debris, said John Mulhall the warning coordinator for the county.
"There's a lot of folks out there who probably don't use a chainsaw ever. They've got a tree across their driveway or something, and suddenly they think they are a lumberjack," he said. "Probably the most dramatic and traumatic injuries we'll see is chainsaw injuries."
Mulhall said the county sees lots of chainsaw injuries combined with users falling from ladders or from roofs after slipping on a poorly placed tarp.
The greatest mistakes come from:
"Sadly, the deaths and the injuries don't come from the storm itself, the wind, the rain, but after the fact as people attempt to clean up. So we strongly encourage people, if you have a generator take the time to learn how to use it safely," he said.
For the uninitiated, generators produce carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that can be deadly if inhaled. According to the National Library of Medicine,unintentional nonfire-related carbon monoxide poisoning is a leading cause of poisoning deaths in the U.S., with more than 400 deaths each year.
Florida experienced its own carbon monoxide tragedies in 2017 after Hurricane Irma cut through the state. There were at least 24 deadly incidents attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from generators placed inside a dwelling, state recordsshow.
“If you are going to use one, if you have time, make sure there's a carbon monoxide detector in your home. So that'll warn you about those toxic gases," Mulhall said.
Additionally, new generator owners should make sure their home has the proper circuitry before plugging their generator into their home.
"The absolute most dangerous thing you can do is try to power your whole house with a generator without the proper circuitry," he said. "That's going to send that power right down the line, which could injure your neighbors and introduce the utility crews trying to fix things."
Mulhall said homeowners would need to have an electrician install a "transfer switch" in order to properly have a generator support an entire house.
"You would know if you have one. They're quite expensive to put in," he said.
Instead, use your generator to power TVs, refrigerators, or small devices.
How you avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
The Florida Department of Health recommends the following precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Do not burn charcoal in a fireplace or use charcoal or gas grills inside a house, garage, vehicle, or tent.
- Never use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.
- Always keep running portable generators or gasoline engines (such as pressure washers and vehicles) outside, more than 20 feet away from open windows, doors, window air conditioners, or exhaust vents that could allow CO to come indoors. Follow the instructions that come with your equipment.
- Install, per the manufacturer’s installation instructions, battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup in your home. The CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, ASTM D6332, or CSA 6.19.01).
- Test your CO alarms per the manufacturer’s recommendations and replace dead batteries.
- Remember you cannot see, or smell CO. Portable generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly.
According to the FDOH, if you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator or other gas-powered equipment, get to fresh air right away.
If you have an emergency
Orange County EMS could be unavailable during the storm if conditions are severe. Still, if there is an emergency, Mulhall says to call 911 or the county at 311, and it will prioritize emergencies and get a crew on the road as soon as conditions are safe enough.