Disaster Cleanup: Dealing With Fallen Trees

When a disaster strikes, it can be difficult to know where to start when it’s time to deal with the cleanup. Some people might prefer to wait for the insurance to handle it or try to hire a professional cleanup crew. Not everyone can afford professionals, though, and waiting on insurance can take weeks or months, which might not be practical if there are broken windows and damage to the home that will just get worse over time, or if someone wants to simply get their home cleaned up so things can get back to normal as soon as possible. If someone is looking to clean up fallen trees from a disaster, they should assess the situation, gather equipment, work through the priorities, and finally haul away the debris so you can get back to enjoying the yard you’ve worked so hard on. More details on how to properly go through these steps can be seen below.

Assess the Situation

Before someone starts trying to clear away branches and fallen debris, it’s important to first assess the extent of the damage and compile a list of things that need to be done. A good assessment will take into account the following:

-Potential safety concerns

-Extent of damage to the home

-What needs to be done in order of most urgent to least

-What equipment will be needed

Potential safety concerns include things like downed power lines, broken glass or other hazardous materials that might have been transferred onto the property, potentially unstable debris that might slip once the work starts, and branches and trees that might not be done settling. Any downed powerlines should be considered dangerous even if it seems like power isn’t working in the area and contact with them should be avoided at all costs. Jagged or broken debris should be cleaned up before trees and branches are dealt with, and special note should be taken of any unstable debris that might shift easily.

Damage to the house should be carefully noted so any tree or branch removal that needs to take place in order to repair the house should happen first. If water or the elements in general can still get in due to a branch through a window or a tree that is halfway through a roof, those things should be taken care of before anything else, so the house doesn’t sustain more damage. When looking over the damage and assessing what should be handled when, it should become apparent what tools and equipment will be needed for the job.

Gather Equipment

Once the assessment is completed, it’s time to begin gathering the necessary equipment. This will likely include protective gear such as heavy-duty gloves, sturdy shoes (steel-toed are best) protective eye wear, and a hard hat if possible. When it comes to trees and larger branches, at least one tool to cut up the debris should be obtained such as a chainsaw, though multiple types and sizes of cutting equipment might be needed depending on the situation. A truck or trailer to load up and haul away debris will also be necessary, or you can look for dump trucks for sale somewhere. Buying a dump truck is likely not in the budget, but most places that sell dump trucks also offer rentals as well. If a woodchipper can be brought to the property, it is much easier to mulch trees and branches on-site than to haul them away in large sections. Sometimes, large equipment such as a crane to lift trees off of houses or backhoes to finish digging up roots of fallen trees and move larger pieces might be needed, though this definitely starts to veer into call-a-professional territory if the homeowner doesn’t have proper training and experience to operate heavy machinery.

Work Through the Priorities

As previously mentioned, once everything is in place to begin clearing debris, the first tasks should be those pertaining to the safety of the house. If large branches or trees have been dropped or uprooted, start with the smaller sections and work up to the larger ones. Smaller branches and twigs should be cut off or broken off at the start and removed from the larger limbs. Next, the larger limbs and branches should be carefully removed and cut into pieces small enough to load into the waiting trucks and easily transported off the property. The trunk of the tree or any significantly sized branches should be the last removed. This can be done by carefully cutting them into smaller pieces that can be moved from where they landed and either mulched on site or loaded up to be carried away. Once all trees and branches are removed from on and near the house, the rest of the debris can be cut up and cleared away, working from the smaller pieces up to the larger ones and being careful to avoid any safety hazards.

Haul Away the Debris

Though this step typically comes at the end, it might be necessary to haul away several loads in the process of cleaning up a piece of property. Once the truck or trailer that is being used is full, debris should be carried off to a local waste disposal area. Depending on the location, this might be the local dump, but there are occasionally separate specified areas where yard waste should be dropped off. If the local dump areas are full or the government has established a free service to haul away waste in the aftermath of a major storm, debris should be stacked at the edge of the property line near the street. Smaller twigs and sticks can be burned to cut down on the amount of material that needs to be hauled away, though this should only be done in a burn barrel or in a carefully controlled setting.

Cleaning up fallen trees and branches can be a daunting prospect after a storm, but with some careful planning, it doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Taking the time to carefully assess the situation, gather equipment, address the priorities, and haul away the waste will eventually see most post-disaster scenes cleaned up and back to normal sooner than one might think.