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FOR RELEASE: December 11, 2007
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Preventing Injuries After the Ice Storm

As Oklahomans struggle to deal with problems resulting from this week’s ice storm, the Oklahoma State Department of Health warns that the potential risk of injuries increases after natural disasters such as ice storms, and provides the following recommendations to help prevent injuries related to storm clean up.

Significant power outages have prompted many Oklahomans to seek alternative fuel and power sources such as grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices. Remember that these devices should never be used inside a home, garage, or camper -- or even outside near an open window, vent or door. Combustion fumes created by the use of these alternative fuel or electricity sources can cause carbon monoxide to build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces and poison people and animals inside.

Public health officials caution that if you use one of these devices, place it outside as far as possible from windows, doors and vents. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can kill you or make you sick within minutes. In addition, remember that every home should have at least one working carbon monoxide detector. The detector's batteries should be checked twice annually, at the same time smoke detector batteries are checked.

Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches. Keep your steps and walkways as free of ice as possible by using rock salt or another chemical de-icing compound. Sand or kitty litter may also be used on walkways to reduce the risk of slipping. Older adults and anyone with difficulty maintaining balance should avoid ice.

As Oklahomans begin to deal with the thousands of trees downed by the ice, many will be using chain saws to cut and remove limbs from trees, and not everyone will be experienced in handling chain saws safely. Be sure to choose the proper size of chain saw to match the job. Check to make certain the saw has safety features such as a brake, front and rear hand guards, stop switch, chain catcher and spark arrester. Don’t forget to wear appropriate protective equipment, including a hard hat, safety glasses, hearing protectors, heavy work boots, and cut-resistant legwear (chain saw chaps). Cut at waist level or below to ensure you maintain secure control over the chain saw, and take extra care in cutting trees or branches that are bent, twisted, hung up or caught. If the tree or branch is suddenly released, it may strike the person cutting it or a bystander. Most importantly, be sure to avoid contact with power lines.

Finally, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reminds everyone to check daily on elderly friends, relatives and neighbors who live alone. For more injury prevention tips to follow during the ice storm recovery, visit this Web site: www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/injury.

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