When Disaster Strikes, Safety Still Tantamount

Seton Canada

The recent death of a veteran Hydro worker in Sarnia, Ont. is a tragic reminder of the dangers workers can face in the aftermath of a disaster.

The worker was electrocuted while repairing downed power lines knocked out by Hurricane Sandy.

This is the kind of tragedy that keeps safety managers up at night. No one wants to have to tell someone’s family that a worker won’t be coming home again.

Natural disasters not only cause panic and fear, they also pose elevated risks to workers.

The hazards are both apparent and hidden: With great devastation all kinds of materials are strewn for miles and they may contain toxins such as mercury, lead or asbestos.

At the same time, public infrastructure is also broken open with raw sewage and mixed with floodwaters. There are also inherent dangers from the carcasses of small animals and human victims.

Additionally, the adrenaline-driven urge to save lives often prompts volunteers, and even professional rescuers, to take risks they would not ordinarily take.

When disaster strikes, the key fundamentals of safety should always be top of mind, says Relief 2.0, an international collaborative disaster recovery agency of volunteers and partner organizations which promotes efficient disaster response.

No matter how heroic their actions, rescue and relief crews must always maintain safety protocol. That means wearing…

  • Masks – N95 grade or higher with ample re-supply
  • Activated carbon or charcoal based masks should be a consideration
  • Waterproof and durable gloves
  • Approved eye protection that must also be worn at all times

Based on experience – noting a 10 minute assigned task can turn into a three hour ordeal – Relief 2.0 recommends each person carry a small backpack or fanny pack with…

  • Three to five protein bars
  • A fully charged communication device and one that works on location, remembering cell phone service is often knocked out at natural disaster scenes
  • A flashlight
  • Topical antibiotics
  • Painkillers
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • 16 to 32 ounces of water.

“Remember, if you are not safe, you will not be able to provide support or assistance to anyone and may end up becoming a burden yourself,” the group advises.

 

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