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Preparing For A Storm: how to protect your back, neck, muscles, and your health

Learn what you can do to safeguard your health when preparing for a hurricane.

You already know that it’s important to take steps to safeguard your family, your home, and your property when you know a hurricane or other large storm is approaching. But what can you do to protect your health? The last thing you need is to injure yourself while preparing your home. You also can’t let your immune system weaken. You need to keep your body strong and your mind sharp so that, in the event of an emergency, you can function and do all that is required.

What are some of the risks to you and your family as you make ready for the storm? Consider what you need to do to prepare whether you will be evacuating or remaining at home.

  • Filling and placing sandbags. Get your sandbags early. As the storm approaches, it isn’t uncommon for communities to entirely run out of sandbags, even days before the storm is expected to hit. Calculate how many bags you need. Bring a shovel or garden spade along to make it easier to fill each bag. Have someone help hold the bag while you shovel, or vice versa. Fill the bags ¾ of the way full so that you have adequate bag remaining to tie the top closed. Park as closely as possible to the supply of sand or fill the bags first and then bring your vehicle around to load the bags. If you can, bring your own bags. If you have access to a large supply of sand and bags, fill a couple of extra bags (in case some of yours mysteriously disappear from around your property).

  • Lifting and moving your generator. If possible, have a friend help you. If your generator has handles, make use of them. Some larger generators may have wheels. If you are pushing the generator, make sure that you are utilizing your legs. If your generator lacks wheels, consider using a dolly. Place the generator in a well ventilated area.

  • Safely transporting fuel for your generator. Use an approved container when transporting gasoline. Don’t fill such a large container that you are unable to lift and carry it. Make sure that the lid is secure. Get your gasoline early to avoid long lines and fuel shortages. Use apps for locating nearby gas stations that still have fuel.

  • Lifting supplies. When lifting, keep your center of gravity close to the object you are trying to lift. Utilize your leg muscles. Focus on what you are doing. Never bend and twist at the same time. Go slow. Don’t be in a rush when you are lifting something heavy.

  • Tying down lawn furniture. Purchase rope, bungee cord and whatever else you need ahead of time. Decide what you will be securing the furniture to, whether it is a tree, metal pole, or other stationary object. Don’t secure items too close to a door or window. Use standard knots and multiple knots when necessary.

  • Pack medication. Have all prescriptions filled and in an accessible bag.

  • Moving potted plants. As beautiful as they are, potted plants can turn into deadly projectiles when hurled by hurricane-force winds. Move your potted plants indoors or into the garage before the storm arrives. Use proper lifting technique when moving large, earthenware flower pots.

  • Prepare a first aid kit. Purchase or create your own first aid kit filled with commonly used first aid items.

  • Packing and lifting luggage. If evacuating, take the time to write out a list of what you need. Cross items off your list as you pack and load the vehicle. Be mindful not to over pack. When possible, use luggage that comes with wheels. Carry each piece of luggage individually. Don’t try to carry several items at once. When loading your vehicle, pack the largest and heaviest items first. Place the most important or most frequently used items in accessible locations.

  • Lifting / preparing your pet for evacuation. Some of us have large and small pets. Bring an appropriately sized crate or carrier to meet your pet’s needs. Bring water specifically for your pet. Pack any medications your pet may need, as well as any important phone numbers / contact information for your pet’s veterinarian. When lifting your pet’s crate, try to get the crate as close to the vehicle as possible before lifting it into the vehicle. Make sure the crate opening is facing outward, before placing it inside your vehicle.

  • Securing windows. Purchase boarding or storm shutters as early as possible. When using a ladder, reposition the base of the ladder occasionally to avoid reaching too far with your arms. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Have a friend or family member help, so that you need to go up and down the ladder fewer times.

  • Removing perishable food from the refrigerator. To avoid a mess later, remove some or all of your perishable foods from the refrigerator. Transfer some food items into a cooler. Try to eat what’s in your refrigerator before it spoils. Be careful of any food left after the storm that may have had opportunity to become warm and spoil.

  • Unplugging electrical appliances. Consider unplugging unused electrical appliances to avoid damage from a power surge during the storm. When moving heavy appliances (such as the washer and dryer) to unplug them, use slider discs purchased from a home improvement store.

  • Preparing your vehicle. Fill your vehicle with fuel early. Check its fluid levels and tire pressure. Have emergency equipment (flash light, tools, extra water, paper map in case cell towers are down, blankets etc.) accessible.

Here are some other things to remember in order to protect your health:

  • Warm up your muscles before using them. Any time that you suspect that you will be bending or lifting, make sure that you warm up your muscles first. Do gentle stretches and take your arms and legs through their normal ranges of motion.

  • Give yourself enough time to prepare. If you rush, you risk injuring yourself or forgetting to do something important.

  • Try not to do too much when you are exhausted. Take breaks from bending/lifting and get adequate rest. Don’t do any heavy lifting when you are extremely tired.

  • Wash your hands. Clean your hands often with soap and warm water. Wash under your finger nails, and the webbing between each finger. This will reduce your exposure to harmful germs.

  • Eat properly. Provide your body with the nutrition it needs to remain strong.

  • Have your cell phone and mobile devices charged. While you have access to electricity, keep your phone and mobile device fully charged.

  • Have a charger in your vehicle. Use this to charge your phone and mobile devices.

  • Keep paper maps. If the internet or cell towers go down, you need some paper maps of your current location and any areas you may be traveling to. You may need more than one route to your destination in case trees fall and block the roads.

Try to maintain a positive mental attitude. With proper planning and attention to detail, you increase your chances of keeping you and your family healthy and safe during the storm.

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