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Being Hurricane Prepared — Yard and Landscape is Important

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The edge of the storm

As South Florida prepares for Hurricane Dorian, batteries, canned goods, flashlights, generators, paper products, plywood and water are flying off store shelves. While it is important to provision the household and ensure the health and safety of the family, it is equally important to ensure the health and safety of those living nearby.

In the days leading to a storm, stress ensues and homeowners can become overwhelmed at everything they have to do to before riding it out or evacuating. Yard work often is overlooked but could mean the difference between minor property damage and major property damage and even life and death. The practical problem is we often do not consider preparing our landscape until a storm is on top of us and that is too late. As Dorian approaches, now is probably too late, but we can better prepare for the future.

“Hurricane winds can easily cause trees and branches to fall near your home during a storm, causing even more damage,” according to the “Hurricane Emergency Preparation Guide” on “Keep plants trimmed and remove dead or damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your home safe during a storm.”

Depending on the environment, the location and the neighborhood, some homeowners will face more yard work than others. Whether it is a little or a lot, it is imperative that the tools come out of the shed and be put to their intended use.

“Be proactive…prepare your landscape for hurricanes,” reads a blog by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences titled “Prepare Your Landscape for Hurricanes.” “Did you know hurricane season in Florida begins May 15 and ends November 30?”

Assess shrubs and trees too close for comfort to the exterior walls of the house and cut them back so they are less likely to harm doors, roofs and windows. Mature trees should be pruned, as those are the most hazardous in heavy rains and high winds.

“Hurricane force winds can turn landscaping materials into missiles that can break windows and doors and much of the property damage associated with hurricanes occurs after the windstorm when rain enters structures through broken windows, doors and openings in the roof,” the Insurance Information Institute states on its Web site. “While retrofitting your home to protect against these possibilities is undoubtedly an expense, you can do it in stages. Replace gravel or rock landscaping materials with shredded bark, which is lighter and won’t cause as much harm. Cut weak branches and trees that could fall on your house and keep shrubbery trimmed.”

After everything is trimmed, come up with a plan on how to dispose of or store the green waste because one thing is for sure: It cannot be left at the curb.

“Before a hurricane, one of the most important things you can do for your home is to secure all loose items in case there are high winds,” advises the Waste Management Media Room. “That means: Bundling and tying down all loose items, such as tree limbs, wood planks or building and roof tiles. It’s important to place these materials where debris cannot become hazardous to homes and automobiles.”

Another thing to remember when doing such necessary yard work is doing it with caution. Lawn mowers send nearly 88,000 Americans to the emergency room every year. Chain saws send another 28,000. And power clippers? 17,000.

“The injuries people suffer run the gamut from overexertion and dehydration to cuts and amputations from using all kinds of power equipment,” according to Consumer Reports. “It’s also worth noting that in our research, we also came across a disturbing number of injuries associated with a common piece of equipment that doesn’t have a motor at all: ladders. Falls from ladders cause more injuries than all the power equipment in our research combined, resulting in broken backs, ankles, legs, and hips. But using power equipment can cause far worse accidents. When working in the yard turns deadly, it can be due to carbon monoxide poisoning from a gas-powered engine running in an enclosed space, for example, or people getting trapped under large equipment, like a riding lawn mower. And it’s not just the person doing the yard work who’s at risk. Bystanders also get hurt, such as children who have been killed or injured when playing near a mower or other outdoor power gear.”

To stay safe while operating a lawn mower, whether it’s a push model or a riding model, make sure the grass is free from rocks, sports gear, toys and other like items that can become shrapnel. To stay safe while operating a chain saw, wear snug clothing, cut-resistant gloves, sturdy boots, goggles and a helmet. To stay safe operating a power clipper, start it on solid ground out in the open and mind the cord so it does not pose a tripping threat.

“There are some simple precautions you can take to avoid hurting yourself or others,” said Don Huber, Consumer Reports’ director of product safety.

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