Just because the winds and rain of Hurricane Dorian have subsided doesn’t mean the risk of injury has, too.
Cleanup after a storm can be dangerous work, especially when flooding is involved.
The emergency departments at Tidelands Health hospitals are prepared to care for a broad range of injuries and illnesses after the storm, says Dr. William Richmond, an emergency medicine physician and director of emergency services for the health system. With 30 years of experience providing emergency care during and after hurricanes, he says the types of conditions treated after a storm tend to be different than normal.
“We’re comfortable we will be handle to any particular emergency that will show up,” he says. “The health system prepares so well, it’s almost like second nature. We know what to do.”
Immediately after a storm, emergency departments tend to experience an increase in visits among people who are ill but have delayed seeking care because of the hurricane, he says. Snake bites, bee stings and trauma from chain saws and falls also tend to increase.
Snake bites and bee stings become more common, he says, because heavy rains and flooding tend to displace snakes and bees, who in turn are more likely to come into contact with people trying to clear downed trees and other debris.
As a result, the health system’s emergency departments are well stocked with anti-venom and epinephrine, which is typically used to counteract bee sting reactions. If you are bitten by a snake, try to remember the color and shape of the snake and relay it to your care team, Dr. Richmond says.
Chain saw injuries increase in frequency simply because more people are using them after a storm and because some of those users may lack experience with the equipment, Dr. Richmond says. Chainsaws can cause life-threatening injuries, he says, so it’s critical people use proper protective gear and follow safety procedures.
Falls from ladders and roofs tend to spike after storms as people try to clear storm debris, Dr. Richmond says. It’s important to always follow ladder safety guidelines, such as only using a ladder on a stable and flat surface unless it has been properly secured to prevent it from moving.
Make safety a priority
Other safety tips after a hurricane:
- Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box to prevent electric shock.
- Avoid wading in floodwater, which can contain dangerous debris, chemicals and disease. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
- Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.
- Be careful during clean-up. Wear protective clothing and work with someone else. If your home has flooded, follow proper procedure to prevent and clean up mold.
Dr. William Richmond
Director of Emergency Services, Tidelands Health
Dr. William Richmond, an experienced emergency medicine physician, is director of emergency services at Tidelands Health.Learn More
Medical College of Virginia
Medical University of South Carolina
American College of Emergency Physicians
Meet the Expert
Dr. William Richmond
Dr. William Richmond, an experienced emergency medicine physician, is director of emergency services at Tidelands Health.