Storm Response

The following information is aimed at assisting homeowners and community officials to prepare and respond quickly and safely after storm events.

Homeowners

Many homeowners feel the overwhelming need to clean up tree debris left behind by storm events. Tips for managing the volume of downed trees, branches and other debris include:

  • First, assess safety conditions of your family, home and neighborhood.
  • Homeowners who spot downed trees on primary roadways may notify local officials by calling Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) or their respective county EMA offices. Teams from various agencies will be dispatched to clear downed trees that are blocking primary roadways, so roads can be reopened for official vehicles to respond to emergencies. Primary roadways include county and state maintained roadways. Roadways may include private roads, if life and/or property are in danger and emergency vehicles are blocked from responding.
  • Call insurance providers if there is structural, vehicular or property damage and follow their instructions to accurately file claims.
  • Follow instructions of local, state and federal officials for your area prior to attempting to remove tree debris in your yard or neighborhood. Local governments have different debris cleanup procedures. They will tell you where to place debris for pickup; what branch lengths, bundle sizes and number of accepted bundles will be picked up; and when pickups will occur.
  • In cleaning up tree debris, keep trash bags and heavy cord handy. Pile debris where it will not restrict your movements, the movements of tree crews or your neighbors, and be sure to allow access for other debris to be removed. Determine what part of the debris may be recycleable and pile it separately. Most woody debris can be recycled.

The Georgia Forestry Commission recommends homeowners only attempt to clean up minor tree debris.

  • Tree trunks and large limbs can be very heavy and their movement should not be attempted by one person.
  • Do not attempt to remove leaning trees or large branches on roofs. Improper movement could cause additional structural damage.
  • Be very careful when moving downed trees and branches laying over one another. They are likely to be under tension and when you move them, they could snap violently and cause personal injuries.
  • Operating a chainsaw on storm-damaged trees is dangerous. Historically, more people are injured by chainsaws than the storm that caused the tree damage. Never operate a chainsaw alone or without proper instructions. In addition, always use the necessary safety equipment, including leather gloves, a full face shield or safety goggles, hearing protection, a hard hat, long sleeves and pants, over-the-ankle leather boots (with a steel toe, if possible) and chainsaw chaps.

The Georgia Forestry Commission also recommends that homeowners call certified arborists for major tree debris removal and proper maintenance of remaining trees.

  • Certified arborists can assist homeowners who have trees that have been struck by lightning. Hazardous trees and limbs should be removed. However, major pruning should be delayed six to 12 months (preferably during the winter months). Sometimes, tree mortality takes at least that long or even longer to occur, so major expenditures before then would be wasted. When it appears the tree will survive, more careful pruning and continued fertilization (with deep watering, if necessary) is recommended.

  • County extension offices can also conduct a soil test to determine pH and nutrient levels. Based on the results, homeowners may need to enhance a tree's vigor by fertilizing the tree, aerating the soil, mulching the tree's root area and watering if soil conditions become excessively dry.

    Have patience. Storm debris cleanup can take weeks or even months.

Community Officials

Municipal, county, state and federal officials are to call their respective county Emergency Management Agency (EMA) offices listed in directories by county name and followed by "Emergency Management Agency." County EMA offices will contact the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) for team dispatching.