05-21-2013 02:49 PM
A tornado is a violent weather event that causes tremendous havoc in the short term and extensive recovery efforts over the long term. If you are returning to an area that has experienced a tornado, please take extra precautions for your safety and well-being as well as that of your family.
Your safety is your first priority
If your cell phone does not work, contact family and friends from a working landline. The American Red Cross Safe and Well Website can notify others about your welfare online or through 1-866-GET-INFO (1-866-438-4636) select option 5.
Infants, small children, the elderly, and persons with special needs should be in a secure and safe location far from danger, hazardous sites, and any potential weather or safety threats. Your pets may have been frightened and need to be reassured of their safety too.
Return to your home when permitted
Return to your home only when officials have declared the area safe. Be prepared to present photo identification with your address since local authorities may only permit people who own property in the affected area to enter. Photograph or videotape your property for insurance purposes.
Wear protective clothing (long pants and a long-sleeved shirt), rubber or work gloves, sturdy work boots or shoes, proper eye protection (safety glasses or goggles), a respirator, and, if possible, a hard hat. Carry drinking water, garbage bags (to remove valuables and collect debris), hand sanitizer, and towels. Wear sunscreen as needed.
Inspect the affected area
After a tornado, the ground may be wet and could be covered with debris including broken bottles, nails, metal parts, glass shards, and unknown liquids. Watch where you walk, making sure that the ground or surface underfoot is sufficient to support your weight and does cause you to trip, slip, or fall.
Check the outside of your home before you enter. Parts of your home may have collapsed or be damaged. Examine entrances carefully. Ensure that porch roofs and overhangs have all the necessary supports. Observe the foundation for cracks or other damage.
Look for loose power lines and broken or damaged gas lines and AVOID them for your personal safety. Do not step in puddles or standing water near downed energized power lines so you do not get electrocuted.
If the power is out, use a battery powered or hand crack flashlight to inspect for damage. Do not use an open flame, such as candles or lighters, to inspect for damage.
Proceed inside with caution
Floors and stairs that are covered with mud or debris can be slippery. Broken glass or nails could be present on walking surfaces. Containers with liquids (bleaches, gasoline, cleaners, and detergents) may have broken and mixed together, creating noxious and/or poisonous conditions.
Open doors carefully. Jammed doors may be providing support to the structure of your home. Avoid holding, pushing, or leaning against damaged building parts. Check the ceiling for signs of sagging since water from wind or rain may have wet the plaster or wallboard - making it heavy - and thereby presenting a danger if it falls. Check the floor for signs of sagging which could collapse under your weight.
Turn off the electricity
Utilities in your home may have been compromised. If the power company has turned off electricity to the area, you should disconnect your home’s power supply at the main breaker box or fuse box. Avoid standing water near the power source since electricity and water do NOT mix.
Disconnect all appliances, water heaters, telephones, climate control systems, entertainment systems, and security systems; inspect for damage and broken connections before attempting to use.
Disconnect the gas
Gas appliances and pipes may have moved or broken during the tornado. If you suspect a leak, hear a hissing noise, or smell natural or propane gas, leave your home immediately and call the gas company or fire department from another location.
When natural gas is turned off at the main valve, it must be turned back on by a professional to ensure that the proper sequence is followed to restore gas service and prevent possible gas leaks, fires, or an explosion. If you have a propane tank system, turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier to check the system before you use it again.
Be alert for animals and pests
There may be scared pets or wild animals in the area. Call Animal Control if you have wild or dead animals on your property. Rodents, snakes, spiders, and insects could enter your home undetected. Mosquitoes may be present around pools of water; drain the area and use mosquito controls such as repellents, traps, or dunks.
Document your property
Photograph or videotape the property and prepare a list of damaged or lost items for your insurance agent, broker, or insurance company. Keep receipts for all additional expenses that you may incur such as lodging, repairs, or other supplies.
Take good care of you
This is an extremely stressful time and you must take care of your #1 resource: YOU. Ask for help as needed during the clean-up and recovery process.
Stay safe and well.
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