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University of Iowa News Release

April 14, 2006

UI Injury Prevention Experts Urge Caution In Storm Cleanup

While the tornadoes that tore through Iowa City and surrounding areas Thursday evening, April 13, resulted in relatively few injuries, staff at the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center warn that many injuries occur during the cleanup process that follows such storms.

Initial reports of injuries associated with the Iowa City area storms seem to confirm that cleanup related injuries are common.

"Most of the injuries treated at the UI Emergency Treatment Center following Thursday's storms were lacerations, ankle sprains and minor head injuries incurred by persons climbing on or through debris," said Eric Dickson, M.D., associate professor and head of the UI Department of Emergency Medicine. "While we were prepared for injuries caused directly by the storms, we actually treated many more persons for injuries received after the storm had passed."

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of injuries after a 1982 tornado in Marion, Ill., showed that 50 percent of the tornado-related injuries were suffered during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities.

John Lundell, deputy director of the UI Injury Prevention Research Center, said injuries caused by persons operating chain saws during the cleanup process are especially common.

"Chain saws are frequently used after storms to remove fallen, or partially fallen, trees and branches," Lundell said. "Chain saw users should wear all protective equipment including eye and hearing protection and sturdy shoes or boots."

In addition, Lundell advised that chain saw users should always cut holding the saw at waist level or lower. Extra care should be taken in cutting trees or branches that have become bent, twisted, hung up on or caught under another object. All bystanders should stand a safe distance away.

Other storm cleanup safety tips include:

-- Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.

-- Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.

-- Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.

-- If you have wounds, you should be evaluated for a tetanus immunization, just as you would at any other time of injury.

-- Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.

-- Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement or garage, or even outside near an open window, door or vent. Carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless gas, can build up from these sources in your home or garage, and poison the people and animals inside, causing sudden illness and death. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO-poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.

Further information about safe storm cleanup procedures can be found on the CDC Web site http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/injury.asp

The UI Injury Prevention Research Center, based in the UI College of Public Health, is one of twelve "Centers of Excellence" funded by the CDC.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4261 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: John Lundell, 319-335-4458, john-lundell@uiowa.edu