State officials offer post-storm safety tips

Staff reports

State officials remind people affected by severe winter weather to take precautions to stay safe as they being the cleanup and recovery process.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services are offering several tips to protect Missourians’ safety through the coming days.

Food safety tips

- Be extremely cautious with food stored in refrigerators and freezers that lost power after the storms. Refrigerated or frozen food that has thawed can become home to growing bacteria such as salmonella and listeria, which can cause potentially serious food-borne illness.

- You can safely refreeze thawed foods that still contain ice crystals or feel cold to the touch, but the food may suffer some quality loss in flavor and texture.

- Discard any perishable food that has been above 45 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.

• Never taste food to determine its safety: Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature longer than two hours, bacteria able to cause food-borne illness can begin to multiply. Some bacteria can produce toxins that are not destroyed by cooking, and can probably cause illness.

Generators and heaters safety tips

- Do not use gasoline or diesel powered generators inside your home.

- Do not operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room with closed doors or windows or in any room where people are sleeping.

• Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. These include headache, lightheadedness, dizziness, hallucinations and unexplained sleepiness. Do not wait for these signs, however, since at higher concentrations these symptoms may not occur. Infants, the elderly, smokers and individuals with heart disease are at special risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you experience these symptoms, immediately leave the area where the device is located and seek medical attention or call 911.

Hypothermia and cold weather safety tips

The recent ice storm caused widespread damage to homes and countless trees, which will compel people to spend a great deal of time outdoors cleaning up downed tree limbs and other debris. Hypothermia, the dangerous lowering of core body temperature, will become a serious hazard if proper precautions are not taken.

If a person shows signs of extreme coldness, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, the situation is an emergency: get medical attention immediately.

If medical care is not available, begin warming the person as follows:

- Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.

- If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.

- Warm the center of the body first — chest, neck and groin — using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of clothing, blankets, towels or sheets.

- Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.

- After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.

- Get medical attention as soon as possible.

Cold weather puts an extra strain on your heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

Power line and other electrical hazard safety tips

Because electrocution poses a threat, Missourians cleaning up after the storms should be extremely cautious when working near power lines or equipment damaged by ice or downed tree limbs.

Power lines and other outdoor electric equipment may still be energized even if they are down or damaged. Further, downed power lines may be hidden under tree limbs, ice and other debris and a person can be electrocuted by stepping on the unseen line or by touching other objects that may be energized if touching the electrical line.

To prevent electrocution by downed lines or damaged equipment, from a safe distance carefully inspect nearby power lines and poles, looking for sagging or broken wires.

Note whether the power line is touching the ground, or if a tree or limb is touching a line and the ground. If your see a power line lying on the ground or trees in contact with a line and the ground, stay away and do not go near the line or attempt to touch anything that might have contact with a line that may still be energized.

For other electric-powered equipment, find the power source (breaker box or fuse) and make sure the electricity running to the equipment is turned off before touching it. If you cannot find, turn off or identify the power source or whether the equipment is still energized, do not approach or touch it. Instead, contact a professional electric contractor for assistance.

Contact your local power provider to ensure a broken line has been reported and to get further information and instruction on what to do next. If there is any doubt about whether a line is damaged or down and possibly still energized, be safe and stay away until professional help arrives.

Other hazard safety tips

- Slips, trips and falls: Take care when walking on ice or working among ice-covered debris. Move slowly and place each step carefully. Wear clothing that does not restrict movement and allows easy stepping, climbing and turning.

- Falling limbs and ice: Watch for ice-laden or broken limbs hanging over the work area and remove if possible. When working close to buildings, watch for melting ice on roofs that can detach and fall in large, heavy sheets or sharp pieces.

- Chainsaws and other tools: Be familiar with the tools you use such as chainsaws, aces and shovels, as well as motorized implements like tractors and Bobcats. Be familiar with the tool, making sure it is in proper working condition and follow all instructions and safety precautions. Use each tool for its intended use only.

- Maintain a clear and safe workspace, making sure that anyone around you is aware of what you are doing and stays a safe distance.

“Missouri’s winter storms can be very dangerous, with heavy ice and snow, high winds and cold temperatures that put us all at risk for illness, injury and even death,” said Jane Drummond, director of the department of health and senior services. “But the time right after a storm can be just as hazardous as people begin the process of digging out, cleaning up and recovering from the storm’s impact. We want people to be careful as they begin to deal with the effects of the recent winter storms and be aware of the many dangers they still face.”

Neosho Daily News