Residents and FEMA Crews Face Dangers in Massachusetts Tornado Cleanup Efforts

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials have hit the scene and are now working to assess the damage to determine how much backup assistance is needed to help get Massachusetts back in working order after the string of severe tornadoes. FEMA crews are conducting the current search and rescue operations, according to Craig Fugate, regional administrator for FEMA.
As these cleanup and rescue teams offer their services to help Massachusetts residents, it is important for us to recognize the amount of courage and the risks of danger that these workers put themselves in. Local utility workers and emergency crews are also at increased risk of a work accident. Cleanup crews faced an extremely high risk for tornado cleanup injuries in Massachusetts.

Our Boston workers compensation attorneys would like to thank our FEMA crews and other rescue efforts that are assisting with the tornado cleanup and rescue. We ask that all workers be cautious in the area as there is scattered debris, fallen power lines and other dangers lurking in the damaged areas.

Cleanup work can involve removal of floodwater from structures, entry into flooded areas, cleaning up debris, tree-trimming, structural repair, roadway and bridge repair, restoring electricity, communications, water and sewer services; demolition work, use of cranes, hazardous waste operations and repair of dams and levees.

“Emergency response should not put you in the hospital emergency room,” said Cindy Coe, a regional administrator with OSHA. “Storm recovery work encompasses a wide range of safety and health hazards, which can be minimized by knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment.”

A current assessment of those who have been most severely affected reports that several people are dead, others were left stuck in their car, some trapped by down power lines, and tens of thousands of resident are left without electricity. Emergency responders look to help all individuals affected by the storms.

A team from FEMA’s regional office in Boston has been deployed to the areas impacted by Wednesday weather to assess the damage.

“We’re working closely with the state Emergency Management Agency to determine if they have any needs they can’t meet that we can help with,” said Dennis Pinkham, External Affairs Officer with FEMA’s regional office.

Gov. Deval Patrick, said that the 19 communities that were affected by the severe weather have been declared a state of emergency. He also said that the state has already enlisted the help of roughly 1,000 National Guard troops to help residents and the physical damage left from the stormy weather.

As the road to recovery seems to be a long and tough journey, residents and cleanup crews are asked to navigate the area with much caution to prevent injuries or death:

Residents and cleanup crews are urged to follow these safety tips to help prevent injuries during the post-tornado cleanup efforts:

-Stay out of and away from damaged buildings.

-Stay tuned to local radio and television to get the latest emergency information.

-Only use your telephone for emergency phone calls.

-Do not drive through or near standing water. Depths can be misjudged and cars can be overhauled.

-Be careful and on the lookout for fallen power lines. Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by trees or debris and they could still be live. Never attempt to touch or move any downed power lines. Keep children and pets away from them. Always assume a downed line is a live line. Call your utility company to report any outage-related problem.

-Be sure to clean up any spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or any other flammable liquids immediately.

As residents recover from the damage that has resulted from the recent storms and tornado , the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges that all workers and residents that are engaged in cleanup activities be aware and cautious of the hazards they can encounter. Everyone should be educated and prepared with the necessary steps they should take to help to protect themselves.

If you have been injured in the Boston area, contact Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (617) 777-7777.

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