Where To Get Help In A Tornado Emergency

by Paul Konrardy


  1. Call 9-1-1 if you need emergency assistance. Describe the injuries to the 911 operator and listen to their instructions.

WHN TIP – Be Patient: Assistance may be in short supply and a long time coming depending on the extent of the tornado area or due to tornado-caused flooding.

  1. Listen to a battery or crank-powered radio or television or your mobile device. The local media will let you know about local, state and federal relief plans as appropriate.
  2. Pay strict attention to instructions from emergency management and law enforcement agencies. Obey all curfews and emergency orders that are issued.
  3. Stay away from nearby disaster areas unless local authorities request volunteers.
  4. Avoid driving until conditions have improved. Watch or listen to your local news for road closure information.
    • Debris and washed-out roads may make driving dangerous. Check vehicles for damage before using and give way to emergency vehicles at all times.
    • Stay away from flooded roads, rising streams and storm drains. The power of moving water could sweep you into trouble and you do not know how deep the water actually is.
  5. Be aware of fire and electrocution possibilities.
    • Report fires to the fire department. Be alert to prevent fires, as broken water mains may cause a reduction in water pressure. Lightning and downed power lines can cause fires.
    • Avoid standing water. It may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
    • Lost power? Read 5 Things to Do Before and After A Power Loss.

Working with Authorities

After a tornado, local and regional authorities — such as the sheriff or police officers, firefighters, ambulance services and state or municipal service workers — may be dispatched to severely affected areas. Relief organizations and volunteers might be dispatched as well. Read 9 Resources to Help You After a Disaster.

It’s a hard time; yet remember to tell interested friends and relatives that you are safe. Read 2 Tips for Contacting Others After a Disaster or Trauma for quick tips on telling your loved ones about what happened and that you’re safe.

WHN TIP – Media: Tornadoes make captivating news. A reporter may ask to speak with you. Remember, it is your choice whether or not to grant an interview. It is OK to pause and reflect for a moment on your and your family’s welfare before you decide whether to answer their questions. Read 6 Tips for Dealing With the Media After a Disaster and In the News: How to Get Disaster Information.

Financial Assistance

Depending on the severity of the tornado, the time it takes to receive financial assistance may vary. Remember to contact all possible options for assistance: your insurance agent, the Red CrossThe Salvation Army other faith-based organizations, and other options.

WHN TIP – Insurance Information: Review our Insurance section for articles on filing a claim and dealing with insurance adjusters.

WHN TIP – Our ARTICLES AND MORE section has more articles on the recovery process.

If You Have Insurance — Filing a Claim

Read our article on filing an insurance claim for information on questions to ask your agent, how to keep detailed records and the claims process.

Returning to Your Property

WHN Expert TIP – Water Damage Clean-Up Tips: Greg Kistler, a ServPro cleanup and restoration specialist from South Washington County in Minnesota, provides water damage cleanup advice in this podcast.

Be safe, be smart. If you’ve been displaced, all you may be able to think about is getting back home. Wait!

Be safe, be smart. If you’ve been displaced, all you may be able to think about is getting back home. Wait! As tough as it may be to hear this: a swift return may not be best for you, your family or your property. You may jeopardize your safety as well as your family’s financial security (by hindering your insurance claim).

More importantly, you must wait until authorities have declared it is safe to return to your home. If they have given the go-ahead,  please read Returning Home After a Disaster: What Supplies to Bring and 5 Tips for Returning Home After a Disaster.

You should also download and print out our Records Recovery Checklist and Returning Home After a Disaster-What to Take pdfs.

For more articles on spotting and documenting storm damage, returning back home and undertaking home repairs after a storm, check our RESOURCES section.

Again, please do not return home until authorities have declared your home and neighborhood to be safe.

Re-stocking Emergency Kits

  1. Replace items used from your Home Disaster Preparedness Kit and your Car Emergency Kit. (Download the pdfs.)
  2. Review and update your emergency plan.
  3. Take the time to evaluate what you would do differently if you had the chance.
  4. Be sure to evaluate all aspects of your emergency preparedness plan: evacuation plan, home and family preparedness, disaster kits, etc.

Remember …

The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical or legal advice. These tips are from first responders, lawyers, insurance agents and people who have shared real-life advice; always check with a doctor, lawyer or appropriate professional you trust before making any legal or healthcare-related decisions.

Thank You …

A special thank you to the first responders, emergency workers, government officials, lawyers, insurance agents and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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