Springtime brings the threat of severe weather. According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), in a typical year, over 1,200 tornadoes touch down in the U.S. Tornadoes can knock out power, down trees and damage buildings. Knowing your area’s risk, knowing the signs of a tornado and having protective equipment and emergency supplies on-hand can help your business be prepared for severe weather. Review this list to make sure that your employees and facility are well-equipped for a tornado.
Preparing People for a Tornado
Radios: A tornado could knock out telephone and cell service, so employees will need two-way radios with battery chargers to communicate and coordinate the response to the storm. Weather alert radios can also keep everyone aware of the situation outside, giving a timely warning if a tornado risk arises. NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) broadcasts official warnings, watches, forecasts, and other hazard information 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the nearest National Weather Service office based on your location.
Lighting: Workers will need to rely on flashlights and headlamps if the power goes out in the facility, and emergency lightsticks can help improve visibility in low-light situations. Having portable device chargers on-hand can help keep headlamp batteries topped up until power is restored. Freestanding jobsite lights can illuminate larger areas than flashlights or headlamps.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Workers who remain on-site to help clean up after the storm will need to have the appropriate PPE handy, including gloves, eye protection, high visibility vests and rain suits. Protective footwear should be available in case of broken glass and nails in building debris. OSHA provides general guidelines that may be applicable for those involved in assessing and/or cleaning up damage to your worksites. However, some operations, such as utility restoration and cleaning up spills of hazardous materials, should only be done by workers who have the proper training, equipment and experience.
Personnel Safety: In the immediate aftermath of a tornado, your workforce may need to provide emergency assistance while waiting for first responders to arrive. The steps you take when preparing for a tornado must include designating and training first-aid providers. First aid and wound care kits are critical for stabilizing personnel wounded in the storm, and emergency blankets can help prevent hypothermia in wet conditions. Emergency food and water rations can help sustain workers who have remained in the facility.
Prepare Your Building
Facility Safety: Signage should guide workers to your building’s best refuge area, where they will be able to take shelter. Having a supply of tarps and ropes can provide a temporary replacement for missing roof sections, limiting the water damage to equipment and inventory. Once leaks are patched, a supply of sorbents and pads can help remove rainwater from the interior.
Cleaning Supplies: In addition to rain damage, workers will also be cleaning up storm debris in tornado-damaged structures. A supply of disinfectants and sanitizers, paper towels, and trash bags may help restore the workplace to its pre-storm condition.
Power and Electrical: Power lines are extremely vulnerable to high winds, and it could be days before service is restored after a tornado. Always assume downed power lines are live and never touch or attempt to move them. Utility restoration should only be done by workers who have the proper training, equipment, and experience. Portable generators can temporarily provide electricity during the cleanup. When coupled with transfer switches, generators can power equipment in undamaged structures, and extension cords can bring power to where it’s needed most.