Tornado Cleanup and Response

NIOSH offers informational resources for minimizing risks of work-related injury or illness from recovery activities, including disaster site management, electrical hazards, stress and fatigue, and other issues.

Tornado cleanup activities can be hazardous. Emergency-response directors and supervisors should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and should establish and enforce proper safety programs. Injuries and illnesses in the line of duty are preventable. Workers and volunteers involved with tornado cleanup should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and the proper safety precautions. Work-related hazards that could be encountered include: electrical hazards, carbon monoxide exposures, musculoskeletal hazards, heat stress, motor vehicle and large machinery accidents, hazardous materials, fire, confined spaces and falls. Links to information about hazards associated with tornadoes and other natural disaster cleanup can be found below. This information is intended to help employers and workers prepare in advance for anticipated response activities, and to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the field once rescue, recovery, and clean-up begin.

CDC Immunization Recommendations for Disaster Responders 
Provides information on required immunizations for hurricane responders.

Health Recommendations for Relief Workers Responding to Disasters
Provides a broad scope of information on risks and prevention strategies for relief workers.

These interim forms were developed by NIOSH as survey tools for occupational safety and health purposes in the response to Hurricane Katrina but may be applicable for other responses. The interim forms are posted here to provide information to occupational safety and health professionals who are interested in NIOSH efforts to prevent injuries and illnesses among hospital, shelter, and health department employees involved in a disaster response, and who may be looking for tools to ensure health and safety in their own operations.

The interim forms are key to critical information for assessing the potential occupational safety and health impacts of disaster response on health care, health department, and shelter employees. The interim forms are being used by NIOSH and its colleagues in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to assess occupational safety and health status and needs for employees in those facilities.

Occupational Health and Safety Survey Tool – Evacuation Centers (Employee Injury or Illness Form)Cdc-pdf [PDF – 44 KB]

Occupational Health and Safety Survey Tool – Hospitals and Medical Care Facilities Cdc-pdf[PDF – 32 KB]

Occupational Health and Safety Survey Tool – ROC/JFO/Health Dept/FieldCdc-pdf [PDF – 31 KB]

Occupational Health and Safety Survey Tool – SheltersCdc-pdf [PDF – 29 KB]

NIOSH Indoor Environmental Quality Topic Page
“Indoor Environmental Quality,” as the name implies, simply refers to the quality of the air in an office or other building environments. Workers are often concerned that they have symptoms or health conditions from exposures to contaminants in the buildings where they work.

NIOSH Carbon Monoxide Hazards from Small Gasoline Powered Engines Topic Page
Small gasoline-powered engines, such as generators, can pose a serious health hazard following natural disasters. They produce high concentrations of CO–a poisonous gas that can cause illness, permanent neurological damage, and death. This web page provides recommendations for employers, equipment users, tool rental agencies, and tool manufacturers for preventing CO poisoning.

CDC Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Topic Page
This web page contains reports detailing the problems associated with carbon monoxide from portable generators, motorboats, fires, and other emission sources.

Preventing Electrocutions Associated with Portable Generators Plugged Into Household Circuits
When power lines are down, residents can restore energy to their homes or other structures by using another power source such as a portable generator. If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.

CDC Tornados – Health and Safety
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resource for Tornado recovery and preparedness. Includes key facts, food and water safety, Mental Health, Electrical Hazards and more…

NIOSH Emergency Response Resources – Natural Disasters
A sub-page of the NIOSH Emergency Response Resources Area containing links to information about natural disasters, flood and hurricane response, and personal protective equipment.

CDC Mycormycosis – Fungal Skin infection
Cleanup workers should be informed that this rare fungal skin infection has been reported in people injured during the 2011 Joplin tornado.

NIOSH Confined Spaces Topic Page
“Confined Space” refers to a space which by design has limited openings for entry and exit, unfavorable natural ventilation which could contain or produce dangerous air contaminants, and which is not intended for continuous employee occupancy.

NIOSH Interim Guidance: Working Safely in Confined Spaces
This document provides NIOSH interim guidelines regarding work in confined spaces in response to a hurricane. Flooding and hazardous materials spills or releases may create dangerous confined spaces in basements and enclosed rooms. Similarly, building damage and collapses may create confined space hazards by restricting entry and exit and exposing workers to physical or environmental hazards.

NIOSH Emergency Response Disaster Site Management Page
Provides links to general information on Disaster Site Management such as work plan essentials, site safety and team leader checklists. Also includes links to information on potential hazards (e.g. Silica, Asbestos, Carbon Monoxide, Electrocution, Falls, Confined Spaces, and Chemical, Structural, and Mechanical Hazards) and recommendations.

NIOSH Traumatic Injury: Electrical Safety Topic Page
Extensive list of NIOSH publications on electrical safety/electrocution.

NIOSH Alert: Request for Assistance in Preventing Fatalities of Workers Who Contact Electrical Energy 
DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 87-103
Includes recommendations that can be used to help save the lives of workers who contact electrical energy. Recent incidents have shown that electrocution victims can be revived if immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or defibrillation is provided.

OSHA Electrical Topic PageExternal
Addresses such questions as: What OSHA standards apply? What information is available for the construction industry? What information is available about silica and its health effects? How are silica exposures evaluated in the workplace? What are some examples of possible solutions for workplace hazards? And What additional information is available?

Falls from Elevations Topic Page
Falls from elevation hazards are present at most every jobsite, and many workers are exposed to these hazards daily. Any walking/working surface could be a potential fall hazard.

NIOSH Interim Guidance on Health and Safety Issues Among Clean-Up Workers Involved with Burning of Hurricane Debris
The large amounts of debris caused by hurricanes can lead to an extended clean-up involving many methods of debris disposal. Clean-up workers who may be less familiar with fire safety than are firefighters may use burning as a method of debris disposal. This document contains guidelines for preventing injury and illness during burning activities.

NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program
NIOSH conducts independent investigations of fire fighter line of duty deaths. This web page provides access to complete lists of NIOSH investigation reports and other fire fighter safety publications and resources.

NIOSH Emergency Response Chemical Hazards Page
Chemical agent information is needed for workers to appropriately plan for risks resulting from possible chemical incidents. Several organizations have developed information databases, including short-term and long-term criteria, each with specific purposes, exposure scenarios, and severity of adverse health effects considered in their development.

Health Care Workers Topic Page
Health care workers face a wide range of hazards on the job, including needle stick injuries, back injuries, latex allergy, violence, and stress.

NIOSH Bloodborne Infectious Diseases HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B Virus, and Hepatitis C Virus Topic Page 
Exposures to blood and other body fluids occur across a wide variety of occupations. Health care workers, emergency response and public safety personnel, and other workers can be exposed to blood through needle stick and other sharps injuries, mucous membrane and skin exposures.

NIOSH Heat Stress Topic Page
Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. This topic page explains the types of heat stress and the effects each has on workers and provides recommendations for employers and for workers on how to prevent heat stress.

Health Concerns Associated with Disaster Victim Identification After a Tsunami
MMWR Vol 54, No 14;349 04/15/2005
Gives techniques for victim identification in a disaster area, and provides information on health concerns and the establishment of temporary morgues.

Interim Health Recommendations for Workers who Handle Human Remains
Provides recommendations for individuals who must have direct contact with human remains.

NIOSH Motor Vehicles Topic Page
Motor vehicle-related highway crashes are consistently the leading cause of work-related fatalities.

NIOSH Machine Safety Topic Page
Machinery-related hazards are present in virtually every industry. Workers are exposed to these hazards daily in construction, farming, and manufacturing.

NIOSH Alert: Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Skid Steer Loaders
En Español
DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 2011-128
Describes six deaths involving skid steer loaders and recommends methods for preventing similar incidents.

NIOSH Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders Topic Page
A resource of practical ways to reduce ergonomics hazards to workers.

NIOSH Emergency Response Personal Protective Equipment Page
Personal protective equipment is very important for any emergency responder. There are five main types of PPE that are covered on this page: respirators and protective clothing (selection, proper use, etc.), skin exposures and eye and hearing protection.

NIOSH Traumatic Incident Stress Topic Page
Provides NIOSH recommendations for workers to reduce the risk of experiencing stress during and after a traumatic event.

Traumatic Incident Stress: Information For Emergency Response Workers
En Español
NIOSH Publication No. 2002-107
Describes the dangers and symptoms of Traumatic Incident Stress, includes resources for coping.

CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response: Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event
This web page provides general information for individuals, parents, and families for coping during and after a disaster or traumatic event.

Interactive Online Course for Psychological First Aid TrainingExternal
This 6-hour interactive course puts the participant in the role of a provider in a post-disaster setting. This professionally-narrated course is for individuals new to disaster response and who want to learn the core action of PFA, as well as for seasoned practitioners who want a review. This project was funded by SAMHSA, NCPTSD, NACCHO, and HHS Office of the Surgeon General, Office of the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps.

Materials on the Impact of Earthquakes and Tsunamis on Children and FamiliesExternal
The NCTSN website (www.nctsn.org) has dedicated web pages on the readiness, response, and recovery after various natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis. The NCTSN also has additional information on the impact of tsunamis and earthquakes. To get to these additional materials, go to the What’s New box of the home pageExternal and click on the word earthquake or tsunami. Some of these resources include:

  • Psychological Impacts of Tsunamis (long and brief version)
  • Talking with Children about Tsunamis
  • Parent Guidelines for Helping Children after an Earthquake
  • Teacher Guidelines for Helping Students after an Earthquake
  • Tips for Parents on Media Coverage of the Earthquake
  • Guidance for Caregivers: Children or Teens who had a Loved One Die in the Earthquake
  • Guidance for School Personnel: Students Who had a Loved One Die in the Earthquake

Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a DisasterCdc-pdf
Chain saws are widely used to remove fallen trees and tree branches after natural disasters. This CDC fact sheet provides information on chain saw safety and tips on avoiding injury from the release of bent trees or branches.

Preventing Falls and Electrocutions During Tree Trimming
DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 92-106
Many tree trimmers and their employers may lack training and knowledge of OSHA standards and/or may be unaware of the risk posed by inadequate or improper safety procedures and equipment. This Alert describes eight incidents involving five electrocutions and three fatal falls of tree trimmers.

NIOSH West Nile Virus Topic Page
Provides detailed information and FAQs about West Nile Virus and the potential occupational hazards and risks of WNV exposure and infection.

NIOSH Recommendations for Protecting Outdoor Workers from West Nile Virus Exposure
En Español
This brochure contains answers to questions relevant to outdoor workers regarding West Nile Virus, as well as recommendations for the prevention of exposure to West Nile Virus by outdoor workers.

Interim Guidance on Health and Safety Hazards When Working with Displaced Domestic Animals
Provides information on preventing bites and scratches, rabies, dermatologic conditions, sharps injuries, more…

Page last reviewed: March 28, 2018, 12:00 AM