Hurricane Special 2023: Dangers after the storm

Published: Jul. 14, 2023 at 10:31 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Just because a hurricane has passed does not mean danger is no longer present. In fact, conditions can be just as dangerous after a hurricane as during.

We’re all eager to return after a hurricane and check on our homes and properties, but we spoke to two local fire chiefs who say it’s better to hold off and stay safe than to rush home unprepared into unforeseen danger

“I know everybody when they get home from these storms it, I guess, it gives you a feeling of being home when you do get your yard cleaned up and you can get out there and mow and things start looking normal again, but just hold off,” said Ward 4 Fire Chief Dean Lappe.

“Normally the first 24 hours after a hurricane event, emergency services are in the area performing search and rescue operations, making sure the roadways are safe, things like that. So if they could hold off a little while before they returned, it would be a much safer return for them coming back into the area,” Ward 6 Fire Chief Todd Parker said.

“A burn pile that could’ve waited and been put to the road for the FEMA crews to pick up – instead, we’re spending manpower on grass and brush and woods fires because of these little piles that people want to clean up. They turn into bigger problems, and they turn into bigger problems quickly,” Lappe said.

Another safety issue that arises in the aftermath of storms comes with using generators.

“Always, always have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home,” Parker said. “Even if you normally do not have gas, but you’re coming in and working off of a generator, you need to have a carbon monoxide detector in the home.”

“Generator safety is huge,” Lappe said. “ If you’ve got standby generators, I would highly recommend you get with the installer or the manufacturer and do an exhaust relocation kit. Maybe relocate the exhaust up higher above the eave of the home. Never run them inside of any enclosures, always outside in a well-ventilated area and away from the home, and on heavy enough extension cords.”

“Many of the deaths in Southwest Louisiana following Hurricane Laura were carbon monoxide-related. When you come back, you’ve got to make sure that all of your pilot lights are lit. If you have gas, you have to make sure your electricity is back on. And inspect your electrical system to make sure there was no damage done to in the hurricane that could cause the fire,” Parker said.

And of course, when you’re working to repair your home and property, it’s important to keep safety in mind to avoid accidents.

“After several of the hurricanes, we’ve ran on a lot of calls where people have had accidents with their chainsaws, and of course our medical community is limited whenever they’re operating in those events due to all the emergencies that are occurring,” Parker said. “A lot of people that are getting chainsaws to come in and clean their yards that haven’t been properly trained – people that, you know, were out cleaning their yards where a limb comes out of a tree and hit somebody and killed them.

“We had people working on their roofs trying to top their own roofs falling off the roof with severe injuries, and again, all of those things are things that we’re normally not doing on an everyday basis. And so when you come in and start working on those, we need to be aware of the safety that needs to go into it so that we can return our home, our property to a safe place to live,” he said.

If you do come home early and you start to clean up your property, make sure you’re prepared and have all the right tools for the job.