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FOR RELEASE: December 12 , 2007
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Public Health Precautions After the Ice Storm

As Oklahomans continue to deal with power outages and other problems resulting from this week’s ice storm, the Oklahoma State Department of Health provides the following safety recommendations regarding the use of kerosene heaters, assuring food safety, and the proper use of chain saws.

Kerosene Heaters
Significant power outages have prompted many Oklahomans to purchase portable kerosene heaters as heat sources. Public health officials warn that adequate ventilation is absolutely necessary for the safe operation of these heaters. Burning kerosene consumes oxygen and produces toxic gases including carbon monoxide. Ventilation is necessary to replace oxygen and remove these gases so asphyxiation and other respiratory problems do not occur. Kerosene heaters should also be placed a minimum of 36 inches from combustible materials such as curtains and furniture.

Food Safety After Power Loss
If power is out for less than two hours, then food in your refrigerator and freezer is safe to consume. If the power is out longer, then note that a half-full freezer will hold food safely for about 24 hours; a full freezer will hold food safely about 48 hours. Do not taste food to determine if it “tastes safe.” Discard any perishable food that has been above 40 F for more than two hours.

It is not a good idea to put food from the refrigerator and freezer outside. The outside temperature can vary hour by hour, and frozen food can thaw if exposed to the sun’s rays, even if it is very cold. Take advantage of the cold temperatures by making ice. Fill buckets, empty milk cartons or cans with water and place them outside to freeze. Then put the homemade ice in your refrigerator, freezer or coolers.

Food may be safely refrozen when power is returned if the food still has ice crystals or is at 40 F or below. You may have to evaluate each food item separately.
For more information on how to recover from a power emergency, visit this Web site: http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/poweroutage/needtoknow.asp

Chain Saw Safety
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.


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