Cleaning Up Safely After a Tornado

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Tree-strewn lawns, dangling power lines and a house in disarray are some of the scenes that many people face after a tornado sweeps through the area unexpectedly. Once the worst of the storm has passed, the challenge of cleaning up begins.

If your house sustained damage during a tornado, these tips can help you remove debris and get your property back to clean, safe living conditions.

Assessing Damage to Your Home After a Tornado

If you weren’t at home when the tornado came through, be careful as you make your way home after the storm has passed. Drive carefully and keep a sharp eye on the road, as many roads may be blocked or littered with fallen trees and other debris.
Before you begin inspecting your home, if you suspect damage from the tornado, it’s a good idea to shut off your home’s electrical power, gas (if you have it) and propane tanks to avoid explosions and electrocutions.

As you inspect for damage, keep an eye out for snakes, rodents, bugs and other animals inside your home or on your property. Once you’re inside your house, inspect the property for damaged power or gas lines and structural damage, such as foundation cracks. If it’s dark, use a flashlight to see, rather than a torch or a flame, as it’s a safer option. Check ceilings and floors for sagging, which may indicate water damage. Take pictures of any damage, inside and out, as you may need these for insurance purposes.

If you notice any frayed wiring or sparking in your home, or if something smells like it’s burning, shut off your electrical system immediately. If you smell natural gas or propane, suspect a leak or hear hissing sounds, leave the house immediately as it’s likely not safe, and call the gas company and fire department right away. Don’t return to the home until you’re told that it’s safe to do so.

Tips for Cleaning Up Safely

When you’re ready to start the clean-up process after a tornado, cooperate with your local public safety officials’ guidance, and follow their instructions and precautions as you clean up and start repairs.

In general, be sure to use extreme caution during outdoor cleaning efforts. Watch for falling or shifting trees and debris at all times, as the tornado may have dislodged them. If you notice any spilled liquids) that you suspect might be flammable — both inside the home and outdoors — clean those up first.

Wear protective clothing and eye protection during clean-up, including hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and headphones if working with loud equipment. Be sure to read and follow the safety and operating instructions on any electric or gas-powered tools you’re using. As always, after any natural disaster, use power tools such as chainsaws with extreme caution.

Other safety precautions to keep in mind when cleaning up after a tornado include:

  • Don’t touch downed power lines or anything they’re touching
  • Look for exposed nails and broken glass
  • Monitor your battery-powered radio for emergency information
  • Use battery-powered lanterns, if it’s dark
  • Use extreme caution when entering any structure that’s been damaged

Connecting With Loved Ones for Emotional Support After Tornado Damage

Know that it’s normal and natural to lean on your support system for emotional support as natural disasters can make you feel vulnerable, overwhelmed or anxious. Your friends, neighbors and family members are your support system, even if they aren’t there in person with you.

It’s OK to ask for and accept their emotional support through virtual means during this time as you process the trauma of the tornado and the damage it caused. The people you love can safely support you through a phone call, texts, letters and video chats — all of which can help ease your mind and lift your spirits during this time.

And know that it’s OK to need professional help navigating the trauma that comes with natural disasters. You’re not alone in what you’re thinking and feeling. Ask for the help you need and seek out the support you deserve to cope with loss from a tornado — whether it’s through talking to a trusted mental health professional over the phone or signing up for online counseling.

Here to Help You Cope After Loss

At AdventHealth, we’re dedicated to caring for you and the people you love, physically, mentally and spiritually — both every day and especially after a natural disaster like a tornado. You can count on our team to help heal what hurts with expert-level medical care and also to lift your spirit, in as many little ways as we can.

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