Every year has its hurricane season, and the cycles of 2017 and 2018 and now 2019 provided a sobering look at how difficult and dangerous it is to pick up the pieces of a community after a major storm. Enviro Safety Products is committed to supplying response teams with high-quality equipment for these situations, and this page will provide an overview of the hazards and protective options for responders. These situations require comprehensive head-to-toe protection. With Hurricane Dorian making its arrival in the South and other parts of the East Coast be prepared and buy your Safety Products and Equipment to stay safe and rebuild. We are currently monitoring Hurricane Dorian, and stand ready to help all the citizens affected during the immediate damage as well as the clean up and rebuild.
Storms, fires, earthquakes, and other disasters will come and go, but their effects can last for months, even years after the events themselves. It is imperative that both responder teams and citizens be informed about what health risks they will encounter during the recovery process. The CDC writes, “Disaster site dangers include carbon monoxide poisoning, musculoskeletal hazards, heavy equipment, extreme heat and cold, unstable structures, hazardous materials, fire, confined spaces, worker fatigue, and respiratory hazards.” Even in an area approved for reentry, these hazards can and will persist.
One of the most pernicious and disgusting byproducts of a disaster of this magnitude is toxic mold, left behind by receding floodwaters. There are over 100,000 species of molds out there, not all of them toxic. For safety’s sake, however, it is advised that any and all mold be removed as soon as possible after it is noticed. We hear a lot about Stachybotrys charatrum, or black mold, but that hype can obscure the fact that any color of mold is a potential hazard. For responders, respirators and protection for the hands and feet are necessary. For the most affected areas, the response teams will need full facepiece powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) with liquid-proof gloves and boots.
These operations will require some responders to enter compromised structures where objects may be falling. If winds pick up, then they may carry dangerous objects that could strike a responder. Head protection is a must. There are two basic categories of hard hat: Type I for vertical force, and Type II for lateral force. Type I are the most popular and are standard for disaster relief, but it’s usually a good idea to have Type II’s available if the need for them arises. Inside the hat is the suspension, the fabric or plastic support frame that attenuates impact forces away from the skull. The more suspension points in a hat, the better the protection.
Eye and Face Protection
Millions of particles are kicked into the air by disasters, and protective eyewear is necessary to shield repsonders in the field. For a disaster zone, sealed eyewear is considered ideal. In addition to preventing particulate from entering the eyes, they can also shield from wind, harsh sun, and impact. Anti-fog lens coatings are available that can maintain visibility in inclement conditions.There are also extended wraparound frames and adjustable features on some products, giving the buyer a range of options.
Immediate physical injury is not the only concern during response operations. Disasters can crack community infrastructures open like eggs, releasing gases, chemicals, fumes, and particles into the air. Response teams need high-quality respiratory protection to prevent long-term damage to the lungs. Asbestos is still present in many structures throughout the country, and can easily be unleashed into the atmosphere by these disasters, putting whole populations at risk for mesothelioma. Respirable silica is also a concern, lodging in the lungs similarly to asbestos and gradually introducing silicosis to the host’s system.
For these operations, a half- or full-face mask is the best bet. These respirators form a seal around the user’s face and provide clean filtered air throughout the workday. N95 and P100 filters are recommended for optimal air purification and flow.
Hand and Foot Protection
Hands and feet are a worker’s most important tools, and the chief points of contact with the environment in a clean-up situation. For this reason, protecting the extremities is an important aspect of responder safety. High-quality gloves resistant to cuts, punctures, and abrasions are highly recommended, and options are available that can provide high-level protection without becoming unwearable.
Surfaces in these situations can often be uneven, rough, slick, etc. Safety risks to the feet are numerous and worrying, including impact from, crush, puncture, and slipping. Protective plating, liquid and chemical resistance, and high-traction soles are all traits to look for when shopping, while keeping in mind that comfort is essential as well to prevent fatigue.
A major hazard after these disasters is electrocution. Energized wires may be present in damaged structures, lying on the street, or dangling from their posts. Even if a downed wire isn’t visibly sparking, it could still be live and can even energize objects nearby, such as fences, water pipes, buildings, and even plants. OSHA has a printable bilingual “quick card” here that can be distributed to teams. It’s not standard for specifically electric-safe equipment to be distributed to non-electricians, so the advice basically boils down to knowing what to look for and how to avoid shock. Any electrical hazards the team encounters should be reported to the local electric utility company, who have authorized operators and specialized equipment for the task.
General Safety Tips
Get the right safety gear
N95 masks (or a respirator with a higher protection level)
Heavy work gloves
Waterproof boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank)
Earplugs or protective headphones (if you’re working with noisy equipment)
At least two fire extinguishers (each with a UL rating of at least 10A)
If sewage is involved, make sure to wear the following during your cleanup:
Use teams to move heavy/bulky objects Have teams of at least two people work together to move heavy or bulky objects. Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person). Pace yourself Cleaning up your home can be a big job. Be sure to take care of yourself: Rest when you need to. Decide which cleanup tasks are most important, and focus on those first. That way, you’re less likely to be overwhelmed. Get help lifting heavy or bulky objects. If you lift too much on your own, you could hurt yourself. Try to work with other people, so you aren’t alone. Get support from family members, friends, counselors, or therapists.
Take precaution when using a chainsaw
When using a chain saw, always follow manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure to wear appropriate protective gear, and be sure that bystanders are a safe distance away. Avoid contact with power lines, and take extra care in cutting trees or branches that are bent or caught under something else. Use extreme caution to avoid electrical shock when using an electric chain saw.
Stay safe in hot weather In hot weather, try to stay cool by staying in air-conditioned buildings, taking breaks in shaded areas or in cool rooms, drinking water and nonalcoholic fluids often, and wearing light and loose-fitting clothing. Do outdoor activities during cooler hours.