images showing tornado damage

Tornado Cleanup and Response

Tornados are columns of air that extend from the sky to the ground rotating with great speed and power. These extreme winds create different physical hazards during and after the event. Clean up activities might present a major challenge for responders who might be in risk of injury due to the alterations the tornado may have left. 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. Emergency-response directors and supervisors should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and should establish and enforce proper safety programs.

This page informs responders and employers on the hazards they may face during and after a tornado and provides advice on how to prevent injury and protect themselves from potential hazards. The topics include air quality, clean up hazards, confined spaces, electrical hazards, fire, hazardous materials, musculoskeletal hazards, stress and fatigue and use of personal protective equipment.

Disaster Management

Management of activities before, during and after an emergency is a difficult task. Different components must be considered to account for all the potential hazards that can be faced. The preparation of a comprehensive plan is vital to ensure the correct management of resources, consecution of activities and protection of responders. During the elaboration of a disaster management plan, potential hazards can be identified which helps to establish the necessary measures to prevent, control and mitigate those hazards. Such measures can include but are not limited to the establishment of a system to manage personnel during an emergency, provide training to face a particular hazard, define the use of personal protective equipment, and install guidelines and mechanisms to be used in case of an emergency, among others.


Tornadoes are associated to multiple hazards that represent a risk for emergency responders and recovery workers. During cleanup activities physical, chemical and biological hazards may be present. Challenges faced by emergency response and recovery workers include electrocution, falls, chemical hazards, fire, and physical hazards associated to injury from falling or flying debris, among others.

The following resources besides offering information provides tools to create awareness and offer recommendations to employers and workers to protect themselves from multiple hazards during tornadoes.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a main source of protection for emergency and recovery workers. Depending on the type of emergency which may include flooding, hurricanes, fire, electricity, structural collapse, falls, terrorism, earthquakes, tornadoes, extreme temperatures, diseases, among others. It is necessary to protect emergency response and recovery workers from physical, chemical and biological hazards. Routes of exposure include inhalation, dermal contact, ingestion or contact through mucous membranes. Therefore, main protective equipment includes respirators, eye protection, hearing protection and protective clothing. Depending on the hazard, the recommendations on the use of PPE change. Some examples of PPE may include Gas masks, gloves, overalls, boots, and goggles.

Additional Information

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