Tips on Injury Prevention Post-Hurricane Sandy

The head of trauma at GWU Hospital says the risk of injury after a storm is still high.

The worst of Hurricane Sandy may be over here in Washington, but the cleanup can be just as dangerous. We asked Dr. Babak Sarani, chief of trauma at George Washington University Hospital, for some injury prevention tips during the aftermath.

Stay away from wooded areas: The risk of falling branches is still high, says Sarani. The hospital already received two patients during the storm who sustained injuries from falling tree branches; one patient came in with life-threatening injuries. “If you see trees with a lot of dangling limbs, it’s worthwhile notifying your county authorities.”

Avoid flooded waters: There have been instances of electrocution when someone has waded into flooded waters. “There’s always a risk of wires underneath the water that many people aren’t able to see,” Sarani explains. Any car—even a large SUV—can be washed away when driving in less than a foot of water, he says. He cautions against drivers entering areas with dips in the road. Ultimately, stay off the roads, but if you must venture out, stay on main-level streets.

Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning: Avoid using your stove or oven as a source of heat, as that can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. The same warning goes for both indoor and outdoor space heaters. “One of the first tipoffs of carbon monoxide poisoning is a severe headache,” says Sarani. “It then leads to confusion and coma.”

Be extra careful when cleaning your yard: Sarani’s trauma center sees plenty of injuries post-storm from patients who misuse chainsaws while cleaning up branches in their yards, as well as significant head injuries sustained while clearing leaves from roofs and gutters. Use extreme caution when using chainsaws, climbing ladders, and cleaning slippery roofs.

Steer clear of fallen power lines: “Be aware of all things that have fallen around you, especially power lines,” says Sarani. “Don’t go anywhere near it. Notify your electrical company so they can handle it instead.”