Hundreds of trained American Red Cross disaster workers are working around the clock to help people in California impacted by the recent severe weather. Here are some important safety steps people should follow if they are in the path of these storms:
SNOW AND ROOFS: According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), preventing falls when clearing your roof of snow is key, that a fall from a roof can often be fatal. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and OSHA offer these safety steps for removing snow from a roof:
- Remove snow without going up on the roof whenever possible.
- Evaluate the weight of the snow and whoever is going on the roof to avoid a roof collapse.
- Listen for unexpected sounds or movement that may signal a collapse.
- Get a roof rake. It lets you stay on the ground and pull the snow down. The telescoping handle gives you longer reach.
- Climbing on top of a roof or a ladder to brush away snow can result in dangerous slips and falls. If you must use a ladder, make certain it’s solidly secured and have someone hold it so it doesn’t slide. Check the ladder rungs for ice. A slippery step can cause a fatal fall.
- Always have someone below the roof to keep everyone away from locations where falling snow or ice could cause injuries. They can watch out for your safety and get help in an emergency.
- Stay alert for falling icicles. An icicle falling from a short height can still cause damage or injury.
- Buried skylights pose a high risk to someone on a roof removing snow. Properly mark this hazard as well as other rooftop hazards
- To avoid pulling heavy, wet snow drifts on top of yourself, stand to the side of the roof on the ground.
- Don’t take all the snow from your roof. Leave at least an inch or two of snow to avoid damaging the roof.
- Work small areas at a time. Don't make a pile of snow and create a weight imbalance on the roof. Pull small amounts toward you at a time. Work from the area closest to you and then move upward.
- Don’t forget to clear gutters and drains.
- If you don’t feel safe removing snow from the roof, hire a professional service to do it. Just be sure the service is properly licensed and insured.
- Turn around, don’t drown! Stay off the roads. If you must drive and you encounter a flooded roadway, turn around and go another way.
- If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
- Head for higher ground and stay there.
- Tune into your local radio, NOAA radio or news channels for the latest updates. If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, prepare to evacuate quickly if necessary. Follow evacuation orders and don’t return until officials say it is safe.
- Stay away from floodwaters. Beware of snakes, insects and other animals that may be in or around floodwaters and your home.
- Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwaters.
- If power lines are down, don’t step in puddles or standing water.
WINTER WEATHER SAFETY
- Stay indoors and wear layers of loose fitting, lightweight warm clothes.
- Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or live alone.
- Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling snow, pushing a vehicle or walking in deep snow.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.
- Make sure you have enough heating fuel on hand.
- Protect pipes from freezing.
- If possible, bring your pets inside during cold winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure they have access to non-frozen drinking water.
STAY SAFE OUTSIDE Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
- Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
- Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
TRAVEL SAFETY Avoid travel if you can. If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.
- Check your vehicle emergency supplies kit and replenish it if necessary.
- Bring your cell phone and make sure the battery is charged.
- Plan to travel during daylight and, if possible, take another person with you.
- Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive.
- Before leaving, check the weather reports for all areas you will be passing through.
- Watch out for sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and dense fog.
If you are stranded, stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards.
- Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.
- Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
- Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
- If more than one person is in the vehicle, take turns sleeping.
- Huddle together for warmth. Wrap yourself in newspapers, maps, and even the removable floor mats to help trap more body heat.
POWER OUTAGE SAFETY
- Use flashlights in the dark — not candles.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will likely be congested.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and appliances. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
- Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.
- Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep these devices outside away from doors, windows and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
- During a prolonged outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to protect your food. Use perishable food from the refrigerator first, then, food from the freezer. If the power outage continues beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot and cover it at all times.
- Stay alert and awake. Many deaths from landslides occur while people are sleeping.
- Listen to local news stations on a battery-powered radio for warnings of heavy rainfall.
- Consider leaving if it is safe to do so.
- If you suspect imminent danger, evacuate immediately. Inform affected neighbors if you can, and contact your public works, fire or police department.
- Listen for unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together.
- If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and notice whether the water changes from clear to muddy. Such changes may mean there is debris flow activity upstream so be prepared to move quickly.
- Be especially alert when driving— watch for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks and other indications of possible debris flow.
- If you are ordered or decide to evacuate, take your animals with you.
- Consider a precautionary evacuation of large or numerous animals as soon as you are aware of impending danger.