Structural Damage and Debris

Damage to a home or business from a tornado or other natural disaster can be obvious or hidden, so be aware of possible structural, electrical, or gas-leak hazards. Tornadoes frequently tear off roofs, shatter windows, and leave the home or business susceptible to water damage. If you have left the area where the damage from a disaster occurred, before returning to your home or business, be sure that local officials have declared that it is safe to enter your community. 

Before entering your home or business, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines, foundation cracks, and other exterior damage. If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water. Approach entrances carefully. Parts of your home may be collapsed or damaged. See if porch roofs and overhangs have all their supports. Try to look inside to check the ceiling and floor for signs of sagging. Water may be trapped in the ceiling, or floors may be unsafe to walk on. Be sure the building is structurally sound. Avoid inspecting your home or business in the dark, unless absolutely necessary, and if you must, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion. 

In addition to structural damage concerns, common causes of injury after a tornado include stepping on nails; falling objects; eye injuries from sawdust while using chainsaws; and heavy, rolling objects. Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves, and gloves, and always wear eye protection such as safety glasses when there is a potential for flying particles and debris.

In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas, and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions, and do not enter until you are assured it is safe to do so.  Contact your local city or county building inspector for information on structural safety codes and standards.

Here are some useful resources to recognize and address these kinds of hazards:  

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    After a Tornado
    Information about various hazards found after a tornado.

  • Virginia Tech Emergency Management 
    After a Tornado