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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Beware of Trees!

Okay, there any number of things to worry about in life and disasters and trees seem like remote issue. But are they really a non-threat in a disaster situation? The answer should clear - trees can be a problem - because under the right conditions they or pieces of them can fall on things or people and cause serious harm to life and property.

First and perhaps most obviously, forest fires involve . . . trees. As noted in Disaster Prep Wednesday: Surviving Wildfires, has some advice for homeowners on Wildfires - advice that requires you to be a bit proactive. Things like clearing an area around your property, moving flammable like gasoline away from the house and arranging for water to be on hand.
Carolyn Costello/KTLA
Also in that post were suggestions for people caught up in a wild fire while out enjoying more peaceful aspects of nature.

We've also all seen those news images of the damage wrought by wind during thunderstorms or other severe weather - trees on houses, cars and in the roadways.

Andy Jacobsohn/DMN
And on power lines where trees can cause both power outages and create the danger of live wires on or near the ground - and rip power boxes off houses (see here).

So, in addition to clearing some space around your house, how should you deal with trees to mitigate possible damage?

It might be useful to look at the concept of "hazard trees":
Worrying about hazards has resulted in the unnecessary removal of many trees. Although the problem of hazard trees needs to be addressed by every landowner and land manager, removal should be an act of last resort. Instead, some technical knowledge and a lot of common sense are the keys to preventing injuries, property damage and lawsuits due to unsafe trees.
Some ideas from a power company here:
Trees are the number one cause of power outages. Selecting, planting, and maintaining trees properly helps reduce power interruptions and even prevents power outages.
Power companies seem to be big on tree planting considerations - see here:
No trees should be planted near high-voltage transmission lines. However, many trees are attractive additions to your yard and, under normal conditions, will not grow tall enough to interfere with distribution power lines. Some of these are:

* Trident, Amur, Paperback and Tartarian Maple
* Flowering Dogwood
* Crabapple
* Hawthorne
* Bristlecone Pine
* Honeysuckle
* Staghorn and Smooth Sumac
* Common Juniper
* Rose Acacia

On the other hand, avoid planting tall-growing trees like these near or under power lines:

* Silver Maple
* Norway Maple
* Oak
* Colorado Blue Spruce
* White Spruce
* Most Pines
But what if a tree, planted by some previous owner of your property or by nature, lands on you house during a storm? Reader's Digest offers up some ideas here, the first of which is:
Get Out Use whatever route is safest to leave the property. This may or may not be the same as your fire-escape route.
Some warnings on chain saw safety here:
Each year, approximately 36,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries from using chain saws. The potential risk of injury increases after hurricanes and other natural disasters, when chain saws are widely used to remove fallen or partially fallen trees and tree branches.

So, be careful when planting, inspect your trees regularly and have any limbs most likely to cause harm removed.

And don't mess with power lines dropped by falling trees or tree limbs.

Not sure that you have to "beware of trees" as much as you need to be aware of trees and their potential to cause harm.

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