Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard hard. States are still assessing the destruction and homeowners are still dealing with power outages, widespread damage, and scam artists.
And already a number of homeowners have been killed trying to clean up fallen and damaged trees themselves.
In Connecticut, a 53-year old man was killed on Sunday, November 4 when he fell more than 40 feet while cutting a tree during a cleanup job after Superstorm Sandy.
And in Hauppauge, New York a man trimming trees was killed when the tree he was cutting fell on him Tuesday, November 6.
As a homeowner on the Eastern Seaboard, the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) urges you to be safe and avoid injury. You may have suffered damage to your landscape, including broken tree trunks and branches, but when it's time to begin post-Sandy landscape cleanup, what steps should consumers take with the trees in their landscape?
First, if a utility line is down:
- Do not approach. Assume any downed line is energized.
- Avoid touching anything near the downed line and make sure nobody goes near the line. Contact with energized lines can result in electrocution.
- Be aware that downed power lines can be hidden in brush and foliage. Play it safe; call a tree care professional.
Second, when deciding whether to try removing a tree or large branch yourself:
- Consider the size and location of the tree. If the work requires you to leave the ground or if the tree is more than 20 feet tall, call a tree care professional. Do not attempt any tree work from a ladder!
- Examine the shape and lean of the tree. Inspect the trunk for decay, weak spots, hanging limbs, and for any metal or concrete in or around the tree. If any of these features are present, the tree is unstable and extra precautions need to be taken before removing the tree.
- Carefully inspect the tree and the surrounding area for anything - utility lines, structures, vehicles, shrubs - that might interfere with the removal of tree pieces.
- Note other people in the area, particularly children. You don't want anyone to wander near the drop zone.
- Even small trees bent under tension can be extremely hazardous. Do not cut wood that is under tension (one or both ends are trapped under something).
- Ask yourself "What will happen when I cut this branch/tree?" Consider all the possibilities; and if you don't know what to expect, perhaps you should not be doing the cutting!
- Plan an escape route from the falling tree before cutting.
- Do not use a chain saw for tree removal unless you have years of experience. Even tree care pros face risk of injury using chain saws. Tree and branch removals are very unpredictable. Don't take unnecessary chances!
- If you have any doubts, bring in your local tree care professional to handle the post-storm cleanup.
Third, consider hiring a tree care professional:
There are inherent dangers for one attempting tree care or tree removal - pruning large limbs, felling trees and especially climbing into trees are hazardous activities even for trained professionals. Tree care professionals adhere to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z133 Arboricultural Safety standards, which has over 500 safety requirements that professionals follow to stay safe. Untrained consumers should think twice before trying to duplicate the work of professionals. For safe and efficient post-storm work, hire a tree care professional with the experience, expertise and equipment to safely take down or prune damaged trees.
Homeowners looking for tree care companies should:
- Be wary of tree care scammers. Don't just hire someone with a chain saw who knocks on your door. With hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars at stake, not to mention the integrity and appearance of your property and your personal safety, make sure that you take your time in deciding which company you should hire. To report a tree care scam, call the FBI and National Center for Disaster Fraud's (NCDF) hotline at (866) 720-5721.
- Ask for current certificates of liability and workers' compensation insurance, if applicable. Be aware that if the tree care company you hire doesn't have insurance or is not a legal company - you, the homeowner - could be held responsible as a contractor.
- Ask for local references, and check on the quality of their work and level of service.
- Verify professional affiliations the company might have, such as memberships in business and/or professional organizations, or Accreditation with the Tree Care Industry Association. TCIA Accredited companies are required to follow ANSI Z133 Arboricultural Safety standards and ANSI A300 Tree Care Management standards.
- Insist on a signed contract as to cost, dates when work is to be performed, and exactly what is to be done.
- Get a second opinion and quote.
An easy way to find a reputable and professional tree care company in your area is to use the "Find Qualified Tree Care" program. You can use this service by calling 1-800-733-2622 or by doing a ZIP Code search on www.tcia.org or www.treecaretips.org.