How to safely use a chainsaw during storm cleanup

By Mark Collins - Meteorologist

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - Dangers linger long after a hurricane passes, especially for those using chainsaws.

Factoring safety into your hurricane preparedness kit is often overlooked, but it should be at the top of the list.

More deaths occur after the storm than from direct impacts of surge, flooding and winds, according to a study by former National Hurricane Center director Ed Rappaport. 

Surprisingly, indirect deaths outnumbered direct deaths in seven of the 10 deadliest storms since 2000. Topping that list is heart attacks, which account for a third of indirect deaths.

Men tend to be more at risk, particularly older men. Male victims over 70 years old outnumbered those under the age of 21 by eight times.

Looking closer at the research shows debris cleanup accounted for a quarter of the 201 fatalities reported in Florida during 2004-2005. Floridians fell from roofs, ladders and trees while trying to clean up, and chainsaws resulted in a large percentage of injuries.

Jacob Hagen at the ACE Hardware store in Green Cove Springs recommends using proper safety gear when operating chainsaws. Safety gear can include goggles, gloves, ear and head protection along with chaps that block chain cuts if the saw kicks back.

Hagen said the proper way to start a chainsaw is key. He encouraged users to start the saw when it's positioned on the ground, or with the handle between the thighs to stabilize the device when pulling the cord to get it started.

Avoid cutting into knots or using the top tip of the chainsaw bar when cutting because doing so can increase the chainsaw's kickback. As always, a good piece of advice is to keep a solid grip with both hands on the saw at all times.

Begin by planning your cuts to reduce bar pinching. Branches or trees under load can trap the bar between pieces, so be sure to account for movement by cutting wood so it breaks freely away from you.

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