Safety Library

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Tornadoes: Safety Tips When Returning to Damaged Areas

FEMA offers suggestions for avoiding injury


Tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines, or electrical systems, causing a risk of fire, electrocution, or an explosion in a storm’s wake. If your ministry buildings receive tornado damage, or if ministry volunteers rush out to assist with disaster recovery, be mindful of the dangers involved.

Here are some recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that can help you avoid injury in the immediate aftermath of 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.
  • 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. These sources can cause carbon monoxide (CO) -- an odorless, colorless gas -- to 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.

FEMA has developed several resources that can help protect your ministry and its people before, during, and after emergencies. To learn more, visit www.ready.gov or its Spanish counterpart, www.listo.gov.