Tornadoes (After and Cleanup)
Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. A study of injuries after a tornado in Marion, Illinois, showed that 50 percent of the tornado-related injuries were suffered during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities.
Nearly a third of the injuries resulted from stepping on nails. Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines or electrical systems, there is a risk of fire, electrocution or an explosion. Protecting yourself and your family requires promptly treating any injuries suffered during the storm and using extreme care to avoid further hazards.
Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Get medical assistance immediately. If someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR if you are trained to do so. Stop a bleeding injury by applying direct pressure to the wound. Have any puncture wound evaluated by a physician. If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location.
General Safety Precautions
Here are some safety precautions that could help you avoid injury after a tornado:
Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.
Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper - or even outside near an open window, door or vent. Carbon monoxide (CO) - an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you breathe it - from these sources can build up in your home, garage or camper and poison the people and animals inside. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.
Hang up displaced telephone receivers that may have been knocked off by the tornado, but stay off the telephone, except to report an emergency.
Cooperate fully with public safety officials.
Respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, fire fighters, emergency management and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested. Your presence could hamper relief efforts and you could endanger yourself.
Inspecting the Damage
After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.
In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.
If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you have not done so already.
If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or fire departments, or State Fire Marshal's office and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.
Safety During Clean Up
Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves.
Learn proper safety procedures and operating instructions before operating any gas-powered or electric-powered saws or tools.
Clean up spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids and other potentially hazardous materials.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tornadoes
The CDC's mission is to collaborate to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health. The CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response website provides information on a host of hazards, including tornadoes.
LEARN MORE About Tornado Preparedness
Audio (mp3 format)
Take Action Before Flooding to Protect Drinking Water
- Why is flood water in a well unsafe?
- What should be done to prevent contamination of wells?
Wells Near Flooded Areas Need to be Tested - Jack Daniel, administrator of the Office of Drinking Water and Environmental Health
- Test water if there is a change in taste of color
Water Quality- Jack Daniel, Administrator of the Office of Drinking Water and Environmental Health
- Indicators that your water might be affected
- Alternatives to contaminated drinking water
- When should wells be tested?
Food Safety - Jack Daniel, Administrator of the Office of Drinking Water and Environmental Health
- How flood water can contaminate a food supply?
- What about canned goods?
- What about food in refrigerators and freezers during a power loss?
Additional Audio Resources (streaming format)
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Flooding Fact Sheets / FAQs
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Do I need a tetanus shot if I'm in a flooded area?
Tetanus immunization is recommended for all adults every 10 years. Exposure to floodwaters doesn’t increase the risk of tetanus according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, if you get a severe wound or deep cut, check with your health care provider to see if you need a booster. Tetanus is an infectious disease, but it’s not spread from one person to another. The bacteria that cause tetanus are found in the soil and usually enter the body through a wound. The infection is very serious and will involve a long hospital stay. Surviving tetanus disease doesn’t create immunity. The only way to guarantee future protection is through immunization.
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Mental and Emotional Health
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DEQ - Department of Environmental Quality
Get information on debris cleanup, disposal of animal carcasses and hazardous waste.
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