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Disaster Preparedness

How to Clean Up After a Tornado

When it’s safe to leave your shelter, here’s how you can safely survey the damage and get back to work.  

Evaluate your property. 

When you hear the all-clear from local authorities, leave your shelter.

  • If you aren’t at your company building, don’t return until authorities say it’s safe to do so. 
  • Make sure you wear appropriate clothing when you evaluate the damage, like long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes.
  • Keep an eye out for broken gas lines and fallen power lines, and report them as soon as possible to local officials. 
  • Evacuate the area if you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing, and make sure to alert the authorities. 
  • Take pictures of damage for insurance claims.

Keep an eye out for hazards.

After a tornado, you may encounter:

  • Dangerous driving conditions because of slick or blocked roadways
  • Slippery walkways
  • Flying or falling objects, like tree limbs or utility poles
  • Sharp objects, like broken glass or nails
  • Electrical hazards in the form of downed power lines or damaged objects in contact with power lines
  • Falls from dangerous heights
  • Fires caused by equipment failure or line contact
  • Exhaustion from working extended shifts, as well as heat and dehydration

Address hazards before continuing to work. 

  • Eliminate the problem wherever possible. For example, you should remove a fallen power line before working on anything else in the area.
  • Get ahead of equipment-related injuries: You can do this by guarding the
    “pinch points” on a piece of heavy equipment, or making sure the cab is temperature-controlled.
  • Make sure your team is well-rested: Decrease the chances they’ll make a mistake on the job by giving them frequent breaks and making sure they’re getting the rest they need.
  • Work in the daylight. This is especially true for high-hazard or unfamiliar tasks. 
  • Keep the workspace clean. Decontaminate equipment or personnel if they come into contact with contaminated water or chemicals. 
  • Use the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Use PPE that’s appropriate for the task your team is working on. See more about how to select and use PPE here. 

Make sure your team practices basic sanitation on the job. 

You can reduce the risk of hazards and contaminants by employing basic safety, sanitation and good housekeeping practices. These include:

  • Drinking safe water
  • Washing hands before eating, drinking, smoking or after using the restroom. Use hand sanitizer if potable water isn’t available
  • Not eating or drinking anything exposed to floodwaters, and not eating or drinking in an area that contains debris, floodwater or sludge
  • Using bug repellent
  • Promptly dealing with cuts and scrapes 

Make sure your team brings the right personal gear. 

In addition to PPE, employees should have gear that’s appropriate for the environment: 

  • Changes of clothing that fit the weather, location and assignment
  • Toiletries
  • A flashlight with spare batteries
  • Sunscreen
  • A hat for sun and rain
  • An extra pair of glasses or contacts, as well as sunglasses

If necessary, talk to a medical professional. 

Evaluate the work your team will do in a tornado-impacted area. Then you can consult with a health care professional, who will:

  • Determine whether medical exams are needed
  • Conduct any necessary tests. 
  • Perform vaccinations, if required 

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