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Consumer Safety Alert: Cleaning Up Trees Damaged by Hurricane Florence

According to recent reports, Hurricane Florence will slow down, performing an agonizing crawl through the Carolinas and Southeast starting as early as Thursday, September 13 and into early next week, producing catastrophic inland rainfall flooding, life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds.

Florence is just one storm at the start of a long season that will surely see many more storms.

The Tree Care Industry Association, a national trade association of professional companies, urges homeowners to be safe and avoid injury during the post-storm cleanup. Your landscape may have sustained damage from fallen trees and limbs, but do not attempt to clean up this debris yourself. Hidden dangers such as fallen power lines and unpredictable tree mechanics can harm untrained civilians. As you assess your post-storm landscape, consider the following:

downed tree and power linesFirst, 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. 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!

professional arborists performing storm cleanupThird, 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. Untrained civilians 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 1-866-720-5721.
  • Be aware that price gouging is another form of tree care scamming. The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office is the best contact for information on and to report possible gouging. If you believe you are a victim of price gouging, you can file a consumer complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
  • 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.
  • 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 tree care service provider in your area is to use the “Find A Tree Care Company” program. You can use this service by calling 1-800-733-2622 or by doing a ZIP Code search for qualified tree care in your area.

Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) has been a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938. TCIA has more than 2,400 member tree care firms and affiliated companies. All member tree care companies recognize stringent safety and performance standards and are required to carry liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, where applicable. TCIA has the nation’s only Accreditation program that helps consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited based on: adherence to industry standards for quality and safety; maintenance of trained, professional staff; and dedication to ethics and quality in business practices. For more information, visit

One thought on “Consumer Safety Alert: Cleaning Up Trees Damaged by Hurricane Florence

  • Jodie and Bill, awesome post. I want to share a few things to do after the storm.

    Sometimes, broken limbs may still be lodged in trees, but can easily and unexpectedly fall. Loggers call these “widow-makers.”

    Look for trees leaning against or touching downed phone lines or power lines – a tree in contact with a power line, and the ground at the base of the tree, can be energized and dangerous.

    Anyway, Keep up the good work…



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