Monday, July 15, 2019

Danger remains even after the storm has passed

By KENYATTA ESTERS | Emergency Preparedness Manager, LDH Office of Management and Finance

Did you know that after a storm such as a tropical system has passed, many people are injured or die from hazards that are not directly associated with the storm?

In a 2016 study, researchers Dr. Edward N. Rappaport, former acting director of the National Hurricane Center, and Dr. B. Wayne Blanchard, retired Higher Education Project Manager at FEMA, analyzed 50 years of tropical cyclones and found that there were over 1,400 indirect deaths associated with these storms. These deaths included heart attacks, electrocutions and car accidents.

Let’s look at some of these “indirect hazards” of tropical systems and ways that we can prepare for them.

Credit: Rappaport and Blanchard (2016)

Cardiovascular incidents
Rappaport and Blanchard found that heart-related problems resulted in about 34% of all indirect deaths associated with tropical cyclones. Both the physical and emotional stress of dealing with a storm’s aftermath may result in a worsening of symptoms for those with heart disease.

  • Take breaks during strenuous post-storm activities such as debris removal.
  • If possible, work in groups or utilize community resources to assist in post-storm cleanup.
  • Ensure that all heart medications are refilled before a storm arrives, and check with your health insurance company to see if extra refills can be authorized before the storm.
  • Stay aware of stress levels after the storm. If you are overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety or depression, seek medical care and try to stay connected with friends and family. You can also use resources such as the Disaster Distress Helpline, a crisis counseling and support line for those experiencing emotional distress related to disasters.

Vehicular incidents
After a storm has passed, our first instinct can be to get in our vehicles to tour damage in neighborhoods. This can be a very dangerous action, as many roadways remain hazardous well after a storm has passed due to floodwaters and debris. Traffic lights may not function, and street and road hazard signs may be displaced. These hazards can result in dangerous traffic accidents.

  • Always remained sheltered after a storm until authorities tell you it is OK to leave your home.
  • When you are allowed to leave your home, always yield the right of way to any emergency vehicles that may approach.
  • Stay aware of road conditions through local news and radio stations and through the 511 travel information line.
  • Never drive around barriers or through flooded roadways, and be aware of downed trees and power lines.
  • If a traffic signal is not operating at an intersection, treat the intersection as an “all-way” stop.

 Visit or call 511 for travel information in Louisiana.

Power problems

Power outages can be an inconvenience for some, but may result in serious medical consequences for others. Many storms have affected Louisiana in the months of August and September, a period when the state experiences high and humid temperatures. The lack of cool air can make heat-related illness in vulnerable populations worse.

Power outages can be especially dangerous for citizens who use electricity-dependent medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators, feeding pumps and nebulizers. Injuries from falls can occur due to the lack of light, and frozen and chilled foods can become contaminated due to lack of refrigeration. Unsafe generator usage during power outages can lead to deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • If you or your loved ones are sensitive to heat or use electricity-dependent medical equipment, be sure to plan for evacuations well in advance of a storm.
  • Instead of open flames as light sources, use flashlights and battery-operated lanterns to prevent fires.
  • Purchase battery-operated fans to use in homes.
  • Stay away from downed power lines that could still be electrically charged.
  • Heed any boil water advisories.
  • Never use a generator inside your home. The CDC recommends using generators more than 20 feet away from your home, doors and windows.
  • To prevent foodborne illnesses, discard refrigerated foods when the power has been off for four or more hours.

With a little preparation and awareness, you will be capable of keeping yourself and your loved ones safe before, during and after a storm.


For more information on how to stay safe from both direct and indirect hazards of tropical systems, visit these links:

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