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Man measuring a window to board up for Hurricane Irma
by Lisa Greene on Friday September 8, 2017
How to stay safe and healthy before, during and after a hurricane

With Hurricane Irma taking aim at Florida, Dr. David Wein is someone you don’t want to see.

That’s because he’ll be caring for patients at Tampa General Hospital, where he’s the chief of emergency medicine.

So we asked him for a few tips on how to stay safe and out of the ER.

Wein’s first advice: staying safe isn’t just about sheltering during the storm. It’s about being prepared before and prudent afterwards as well.

“Make keeping yourself and your family safe your top priority,” he said. Saving your property just doesn’t matter as much.

His tips:

BEFORE

  • Make a plan. Hopefully, with Hurricane Irma getting closer, you’ve already been working on this step. Learn your evacuation zone and decide where you need to go to be safe. If you don’t have friends or family in safe areas, check out local shelters. Shelters are also available for people with special needs and for pets.
  • Follow evacuation orders. “Leave when you’re told to,” Wein said. “Don’t stick around to try to be rescued later.”
  • Get any prescriptions filled in advance. Don’t forget the ones you need only occasionally.
  • Tell friends in advance where you’ll be. This is a great time to use Facebook.

DURING

  • Stay sheltered somewhere safe, sturdy, and dry. 911 won’t be able to help you during the height of the storm. “They can’t put first responders at risk to come get you,” Wein said.
  • Stay inside.

AFTER

  • Don’t go outside or get on the roads until public officials have said it’s safe to do so.
  • Watch out for downed power lines.
  • Don’t walk through standing water for a variety of reasons. It may be deeper or swifter than you realize, and you could get swept away. The water is also likely to be filled with bacteria, pesticides, and other unpleasant stuff that can make you sick or infect any cuts or scratches. Finally, it could be covering storm debris that you could step on.

“There’s all kind of gross stuff in the water,” Wein said. “Don’t go wandering around in it.”

  • Make sure it’s safe to drink the water before you turn on your tap. Water lines may be compromised during the storm, and you may need to boil it. Use bottled water until you’re sure.
  • Follow federal recommendations for food safety after a storm.
  • If the power is out and you’re using a generator or gas grill, make sure you’re using it outside in a well-ventilated area. “There’s a lot of carbon monoxide poisoning after a storm,” Wein said.
  • If your home or yard has storm damage, only fix what you have the skills to do. Even though it can be hard to find professional help after a storm, waiting is better than experimenting with power tools.

“Trying to get up on a roof when you haven’t done it before is not a good idea,” Wein said. “It’s not the day to decide to be a roofer.”