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A major hurricane or tornado can be lethal. Preparing for hurricanes and tornadoes and responding to them effectively can reduce the dangers caused by these storms. The following frequently asked questions will help workers understand how hurricanes and tornadoes may affect their health and safety.
What are some differences between hurricanes and tornadoes?
Hurricanes are powerful storms formed at sea that have sustained winds in excess of 74 miles per hour. Due to the size of hurricanes, they are easily spotted and can be tracked for days prior to hitting a given area. Hurricanes are often accompanied by tidal surges and flash floods, which typically cause more damage than the hurricane's wind.
Tornados are violent whirlwinds that can travel at speeds of 250 miles per hour or more. Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes form quickly and travel in very unpredictable directions.
How are hurricanes rated?
Since the 1970s the National Weather Service has used the Saffir-Simpson Scale to measure hurricanes.
Category One: Winds 74-95 mph. Storm surge generally 4-5 feet above normal.
Category Two: Winds 96-110 mph. Storm surge generally 6-8 feet above normal.
Category Three: Winds 111-130 mph. Storm surge generally 9-12 feet above normal.
Category Four: Winds 131-155 mph. Storm surge generally 13-18 feet above normal.
Category Five: Winds greater than 155 mph. Storm surge generally higher than 18 feet above normal.
How are tornadoes rated?
The Fujita Wind Damage Scale is used to measure the strength of tornadoes and sometimes other wind storms.
F-1: Light damage with winds up to 72 mph.
F-2: Moderate damage with winds up 73-112 mph.
F-3: Considerable damage with winds 113-157 mph.
F-4: Devastating damage with winds 207-260 mph.
F-5: Incredible damage with winds above 261mph.
What do watches and warnings mean?
Watch: Be alert, a storm is likely. In the case of a tornado, the conditions are right for tornado development, but none have been sighted. A "watch" is usually issued for a six-hour period of time. No special action is required, but monitor for changing weather conditions. Warning: Severe weather is present, there is imminent danger for people in the warning area.
Worker Safety and Health
What workers are at increased risk of injury during hurricanes or tornadoes?
While most workers can stay inside during such a storm, some workers may be required to go into the storm. This may include utility workers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, federal, state and local government personnel (such as sanitation and highway workers), and military personnel.
Many of the hazards occur to workers immediately after the storm has passed, such as during cleanup and utility restoration work. These activities are even more hazardous in areas of flooding, which are often caused by these storms.
What kinds of safety and health hazards are associated with hurricanes or tornadoes?
Some of the specific hazards associated with working in hurricanes or tornadoes include:
What hazards exist when repairing downed or damaged power lines?
Repairing downed or damaged lines entails many of the activities involved in installing and removing overhead lines and in general maintenance on overhead lines. The crucial difference is that in emergency conditions there are unknown hazards and the potential for changing hazards as work progresses. Under these conditions workers must be extra vigilant and cautious.
Potential hazards include:
What protective measures should be utilized when working on or around downed or damaged power lines?
Stay well clear of any downed or damaged power lines. Establish a safe distance from the lines and report the incident to the responsible authority. Only properly-trained electrical utility workers should handle damaged power lines.
Electrical utility workers should first assess the hazards present in order to minimize the chances of exacerbating the situation. Ideally the lines involved should be de-energized, but this may not be possible in all situations.
When working on downed or damaged power lines, electrical workers should utilize proper electrical safety work practices and personal protective equipment, as usual.
What hazards exist when removing downed trees during a hurricanes or tornadoes, and what safety precautions should be taken?
When these storms occur, downed trees can block public roads and damage power lines. Emergency crews are often sent out to clear downed trees during these storms.
Potential hazards include:
Only appropriate power equipment that is built to be used outdoors and in wet conditions should be used. All saws, chippers, and other tools should be used properly and according to their intended application. It is important that all equipment is well-maintained and functioning correctly in order for use. In addition, all equipment should have proper guarding, working controls, and other safety features as installed by the manufacturer.
What should I do if I am in my vehicle when a hurricane or tornado occurs?"
Drivers in the hurricane's path who are not going to be driving their car should park it on high ground, as close as possible to a sturdy building, and seek shelter as quickly as possible. Avoid driving through standing water. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route.
In the case of tornadoes, if you are in your car you should stop your vehicle and get out. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location. If there is no shelter immediately available, you should avoid trees and vehicles. Lie down flat in a gully, ditch, or low spot on the ground and protect your head with an object or your arms. If shelter is available, move to the basement or a Safe Room. Stay away from the windows and glass doorways. Go the the center of the room, staying away from corners, and make yourself the smallest target possible. If an underground shelter is not available, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
Tornadoes. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Hurricanes. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).