AUBURN, Ala.—Residents in north and central Alabama are surveying the damage left by a wave of strong storms that spawned tornadoes and pummeled the area with very large hail. Henry Dorough, who leads Alabama Extension‘s severe weather response efforts, said residents should heed safety warnings when they venture out to assess damages. Fallen trees and downed power lines are the most common reasons for power outages after a storm.
In particular, Dorough, who also serves as the county Extension coordinator in Talladega County, warned residents about overhead debris.
“Storms like this leave broken branches and debris lodged in trees,” said Dorough. “People should use caution as they begin clean up. High winds can dislodge debris and bring it crashing down.”
Dorough added protective clothing is an important and simple way to reduce possible injuries during clean up.
“Wear a hard hat, goggles, heavy work gloves and watertight boots with steel toes and insoles,” he said. “Protective clothing is especially important when handling chain saws and other equipment.”
Power companies do their best to clear branches from power lines, but in strong storms, it is not always enough. It is important to be aware of your surroundings, such as trees in contact with power lines, after a storm.
Safety Protocol for Storm-Damaged Trees
Alabama Cooperative Extension System professionals recommend the following safety protocols when approaching, or attempting to move, storm-damaged trees:
- Treat all fallen power lines as if they are live. Just because your power is out does NOT mean the lines aren’t energized.
- Never attempt to remove branches or trees from utility lines.
- The higher on the pole the line is, the more powerful that line is. Also, look at the ceramic insulating discs. Utilities use bowl-shaped ceramic discs as insulators between the lines and the poles. More discs equal more power.
- Even television cable and telephone lines are capable of hurting you.
- Don’t approach or touch a tree that might be in direct contact with utility wires before examining it from more than one direction.
Contact the Local Authorities to Report Downed Lines
Power lines will likely energize trees touching or resting on the lines. Avoiding trees in contact with any wires is crucial.
Additionally, contact with a utility line may render a person unconscious. Do not touch that person. Physical contact with a victim will likely result in electrocution. Always call emergency authorities to approach someone harmed by electrical lines. Well-meaning bystanders can also be harmed if they attempt to rescue a fallen person.
The Emergency Handbook brings together recommendations from national emergency response agencies and major universities into one easy-to-understand, interactive reference. It addresses nearly 50 disaster preparation and recovery topics in four broad categories, including: People and Pets, Home and Business, Landscape and Garden, and Farms and Livestock. For more information on emergency preparedness, visit www.aces.edu. The Emergency Handbook iBook is also available in pdf form and on iTunes. Contact your county Extension office for more information.