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Avoid potentially deadly hazards after a natural disaster

Monday, September 11, 2017

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, it often takes time for life to return to normal for affected families. During that recovery period families should remain aware of several potentially deadly hazards.

“After a tornado, flood or other disaster, people could very well be dealing with property damage, as well as power outages, which means families may be seeking alternative ways to light their homes, prepare meals and accomplish other daily tasks,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “In these instances, it’s especially important to keep safety top of mind.”

Specifically, there are four dangers families should avoid after a storm: carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution, house fires and gas explosions.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, deadly gas that can quickly overwhelm someone. It is known as the silent killer.

Fuel burning appliances that are faulty, improperly used or incorrectly vented can create carbon monoxide. CO poisoning symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness and confusion.

In cases of suspected CO poisoning, family members should immediately seek fresh air outside and call 911.

To reduce the risk of electrocution, avoid downed power lines and wires. Standing water covering electrical outlets or that is in contact with electrical equipment also poses serious danger.

“If you’re using electrical appliances, make sure all the cords and cables are undamaged,” Peek said. “Any electrical appliances that are in water or have been submerged in water should first be examined by a qualified technician before you try to use it.”

Meanwhile, in an effort to cut the risk of sparking a house fire during a power outage, families should rely on flashlights or battery-operated lanterns instead of open-flame candles.

Finally, if someone detects the smell of gas or hears gas leaking, family members should immediately exit and call 911 for assistance.

“Gas cylinders and appliances that have been under water should be checked thoroughly by a qualified professional for damage or leaks,” Peek said.

For more information on how to avoid potentially deadly hazards following a natural disaster, contact the nearest county Extension office.

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