The unfortunate reality is that during a major disaster it may take several days for rescuers to get to you. The classic figure given by almost every government organization is 72 hours (three days). This is probably realistic for tornados since they are usually fairly localized. (Just don’t count on that number for more wide spread disasters like hurricanes.)
In any case, you should be prepared to fend for yourself until help arrives.
Shut Off Utilities
If your house is damaged after a disaster you may need to shut off the utilities.
Tornadoes can sever gas lines in your house, creating a major fire hazard. If you suspect gas line damage or smell any hint of gas: shut off the gas immediately! Avoid doing anything that would cause a spark or flame until the gas dissipates.
Shutoff off the electric service to reduces the electric shock hazard in your house from exposed wires.
However, if you smell gas, do NOT touch any electrical switch or breaker. They may cause a spark that will cause the gas to explode.
Note that if the line from the electric pole to your house is down, those wires are still live. (The breaker in your house has no effect on them.) Use extreme caution when around downed electric lines.
If the water lines in your house are broken, you need to shut them off too. Find out where and how to do that before you need to.
See my utilities shutoff page for details on how to shut off your utilities.
After a disaster, somebody will be hurt. It may be you. First, take care of any injuries you have so you can better help others. Then administer first aid to those around you. Make sure you check on your neighbors.
Maintain a well-stocked first aid kit in your emergency supplies. Get training on how to use if. It does you no good to have a first-aid kit if you don’t know how to use it. (Contact your local Red Cross for a schedule of their basic first-aid classes.)
Part of tornado safety is creating a safe environment after a tornado. It is also wise to have some tools and supplies on hand to help in the post-disaster cleanup process. These would include:
- Adjustable wrench [for gas shutoff]
- Water valve tool – if required [for water shutoff]
- Pry bar [for pulling nails, lifting fallen timbers, etc.]
- Chain saw [for downed trees – only include if you are proficient at operating one as they are extremely dangerous]
- Fuel and 2 cycle oil as appropriate
- Bar oil
- Extra chain
- Sturdy work clothing and protection [to protect you from debris during cleanup, especially if using a chain saw]
- Eye protection
- Respiratory protection (N95 rated “dusk mask”) [there will often be large amounts of airborne dust after a disaster]
- Sturdy work shoes
- Long sleeve shirt
- Long pants
- Tarps [temporary roof coverings]
- Plastic sheeting [temporary window coverings]
- Duct tape [to attach plastic sheeting]
- Hammer and plastic cap nails [to attach the tarp to the roof]