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Storm Safety Tips

Storms and natural disasters kill people in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. These safety tips explain how to keep yourself safe from hidden dangers in and outside the home.

Photo: Getty Images Photographer Todd Gipstein

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Stay safe in a storm

You already know the obvious dangers of a natural disaster: collapsing buildings, downed power lines, flying or floating debris.... But in most disasters, more people are injured or killed by things that don't seem all that dangerous, things they weren't expecting or things most of us would never even think of. Here are some of those unexpected dangers.

Lightning: Don't get struck indoors

Don't get shocked in a flooded basement

Keep your wheels on dry land

Driving through a few inches of water seems safe enough, but it kills people every year. Floodwater hides washouts and the road itself, and you can suddenly find yourself in deep water. In just 6 in. of water, some cars partially float and become hard to control. And any passenger vehicle, even a monster SUV, will become a rudderless barge in 2 ft. of rushing water. When you find a flooded road, better to turn around than risk drowning.

Keep your generator away from the house

A generator is the best thing to have in a blackout. But it can make you black out (or die). Hurricane Katrina led to more than 50 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Like any internal combustion engine, a generator engine exhausts carbon monoxide gas, which can give you a headache, knock you out or even kill you. This is easy to avoid, though: Don't run a generator in your garage or porch, and keep it at least 10 ft. away from your house.

Stay out of gushing floodwater

Six inches of floodwater doesn't look dangerous. But if it's moving fast enough, it's enough to sweep you off your feet and carry you into the hereafter. Rushing water also erodes roads and walkways, creating drop-offs that you can't see under the torrent. A long pole, stick or pipe lets you probe for drop-offs and might help you stay on your feet. Still, the smartest move is to stay out of flowing water.

Don't burn down your house

When the power goes out, lots of people light lots of candles. And lots of people burn down their home. There's no good reason for this: Today's LED flashlights and lanterns burn brighter and last longer than candles, without the fire risk.

Flooded basement? Turn off the gas

Floodwater and floating junk can lead to damaged gas lines and malfunctioning gas controls. Leaked gas then bubbles up through the water, giving your basement an explosive atmosphere on top of the flood. And the smell of gas may be masked by other floodwater odors. So call the utility company to shut off your gas even if you don't smell it. If you do smell gas, get out of the house before you make the call.

Stay dry in a flooded basement

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