Summer is in full swing and most of us have been using our mowers, trimmers, edgers and other various implements of yard beautification for months now. Along with the summer season comes summer storms and as the fall season approaches, those of us near coast lines will deal the coming hurricane season as well. Summer storms and hurricanes bring with them the possibility of damage to property, fallen limbs, uprooted/toppled trees, and more. The days and even weeks following a damaging storm can prove to be dangerous and a stressful time for people trying to return things to normal.
For homeowners and landscape professionals alike, preparing for storm clean up is just as important as emergency preparedness for the home. Having chain saws and generators, fuel and work gloves at the ready is equally as important as stocking up on supplies, food and water before a storm. Alternatively, lack of preparation can cause additional stress and difficulty, making it hard to return life to normal.
Below is a list of tips to help both homeowners and landscape professionals alike to plan ahead and be prepared for clean up after a storm.
1Perform an equipment check
Do you have the equipment you will need? A short list of equipment might include chain saws, pole pruners, generators and even an all terrain/ utility vehicle.
2Is your equipment ready to go to work?
Is your equipment in reliable, working order and ready to go to work? If needed, have your equipment serviced by an authorized outdoor power equipment repair shop. It is also a good idea to make sure you have read and understand your equipment manuals and know how to operate the equipment safely.
3Check Your Safety Gear
Locate, check and organize your safety gear, including tough, steel toed work boots, proper safety glasses, hard hats, work gloves and do not forget high visibility, reflective clothing.
4Have the right fuel on hand
Ensure you have enough of the proper fuel on hand and ready. Gas stations could possibly be closed after a major storm, therefore ensuring you have proper fuel for your equipment at the ready is an important item that can easily be overlooked. Be certain that the fuel you have is right for your equipment, based on manufacturer recommendations. Store fuel in approved containers, and never store fuel containers in direct sunlight, nor should you store fuel in extreme heat such as a hot shed or garage.
***Remember that it is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol content in your outdoor power equipment. Using fuel with a higher ethanol content can also damage your equipment’s fuel systems and engines.***
5Exercise Caution and Safety
Maintaining a calm demeanor and exercising common sense are most important to using equipment effectively and efficiently. Ensure awareness of potential danger of using power equipment, and ALWAYS employ safe procedures to protect you, your coworkers, family, friends, by standers and even pets and property. Employ solid footing, be aware of chain saw kick back, and avoid over reaching or cutting above your shoulders.
6Keep an eye on the work area
Keep an eye on the work area, and make sure that you’re not working within 50-100 feet of power lines (whether the lines are downed or not) and ensure you have checked the immediate work area for any potential hazards BEFORE you begin working with your power equipment. Be fully aware of others in and around the work area. Never allow other people, children nor pets near the work area when power equipment is in use.
7Use Generators Safely
If you are using generators, whether for providing power to your home in case of a power outage, or supplying a work area with temporary power, the number one rule is ensuring proper ventilation. NEVER operate a generator in an enclosed area, even if you have Windows and doors open. Just like an automobile, the generator’s engine produces noxious carbon monoxide; an odorless poisonous gas that can be lethal in large amounts. Even small concentrations of Carbon monoxide can cause respiratory and other health problems for elderly, children and pets.
Additionally, it is important to be aware of other inherent hazards of using a generator. These include:
► Shocks and Electrocution
~Shocks and electrocution from improper use of power or accidentally energizing other electrical systems
Electricity created by generators hold the same hazards as electricity supplied by utilities. Additional hazards exist because generator users often bypass the safety devices (such as circuit breakers) that are built into electrical systems. Never attach a generator to a home electrical system with out first having a qualified electrician install a home generator power transfer switch. Attach power tools and appliances directly to the generator and use high quality 3 prong grounded extension cords. Be sure to inspect extensions cords for fraying, splits and break prior to use.
If you are going to be using the generator on a work site, choose a generator with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets, especially when working in damp/wet conditions. These outlets are OSHA approved and provide an added level of protection for those working in direct contact with electrical equipment and appliances powered by the generator. NEVER use wet/rainy conditions. If you absolutely must use a generator in these conditions, protect the generator with a canopy. Avoid manipulating a generator’s electrical components if you are wet or standing in water. Electrical equipment that has become wet and/or has been submerged in water should not be used until it has been thoroughly dried and inspected. When using electrical equipment, immediately power off and do not use a piece of electrical equipment if it begins smoking, or you notice odd odors and/or a burning smell.
► Fires from improper refueling
~Fires from improperly refueling a generator or inappropriately storing the fuel for a generator
Generator engines become very hot while running and remain hot for an extended period of time after they are shut down. Fuels such as gasoline or kerosene can suddenly ignite when spilled on hot engine parts. Before attempting to refuel your generator, shut down the engine and allow sufficient time for the engine to cool.
Make sure fuels are stored and transported in containers that are approved, designed for and and clearly marked for their contents. A proper, approved fuel container will also be vented to avoid the build up of fumes. Do not store fuel on or near any device/appliances that generate heat and/or possess an open flame such as water heaters and furnaces, the generator itself, as well as matches/lighters and any electrical equipment that can produce heat and/or sparks. DO NOT smoke around fuel, and never attempt to refuel your generator while smoking. Finally, do not store fuel in your home, or near living areas.
► Noise and vibration
~Noise and vibration hazards
Gas powered engines create noise and vibration. Studies have proven that excessive noise and vibration are direct causes of health issues such as hearting loss and personal fatigue that can affect focus on safe use and fatigue can take its toll and affect job performance. Try to keep portable generators as far of a distance away as possible from work sites and areas where people gather such as camp sites, backyard BBQ’s, etc. One should always wear hearing protection whenever possible to avoid unnecessary damage to hearing.
8Slow Down, Operate Safely
If you will be operating larger equipment such as atv/utv’s bobcats, tractors, other ride on equipment, etc. Exercise caution, maintain a safe speed and be extra careful when operating on uneven ground, slopes etc.
Larger equipment can be tipped over, and these heavy machines can cause serious injury and loss of life to both the operator and others near by.
Finally, Your Health is your most important asset so pay attention to it. The stress of enduring a major storm and the clean up that follows can break down your body and your mind. NEVER attempt to operate power equipment if you feel overly tired or are experiencing mental and/or physical fatigue. Make sure to stay hydrated and take regular breaks to rest.