Why Knowing When to Safely Go Outside After a Tornado is Crucial

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 13th, 2023

In the harrowing moments following a tornado, uncertainty fills the air. Your first instinct might be to step outside, whether it’s to assess damage, look for loved ones, or simply breathe a sigh of relief. However, knowing when it’s truly safe to go outside after a tornado is a matter of life and death. In this comprehensive article, we will explore crucial guidelines for venturing outside after a tornado has passed, ensuring that you, your family, and your community remain safe.


Understand the Multifaceted Risks of Going Outside After a Tornado

While the visual evidence of a tornado’s destructive power is obvious, the aftermath presents a myriad of hidden dangers. Fallen power lines, fragmented debris, and broken glass are often strewn across the landscape. Beyond the physical risks, health hazards also loom large; tornadic activity can displace dust and airborne particles that may lead to respiratory issues. This is why it’s absolutely imperative to understand these risks before even considering stepping foot outside your place of shelter.

white and black buildings under blue sky during daytime

Stay Updated with Weather Conditions

Relying on a single all-clear signal isn’t enough; it’s essential to verify the weather conditions for yourself. This means keeping an eye on local news channels or weather apps to ensure the storm has passed and the tornado warning is officially lifted. Such confirmations provide a more reliable basis to decide whether it’s safe to go outside or if further caution is needed.

Wait for an Official All-Clear

Even if you’re getting antsy to assess the damage, waiting for an official all-clear from trustworthy sources like the National Weather Service is essential. While the tornado may have physically passed, the danger isn’t necessarily over. Stay put until you receive credible information that it’s safe to venture outside.

Conduct a Hazard Assessment Before Stepping Outside

Upon getting the all-clear, your immediate surroundings may still be perilous. Be vigilant for downed power lines, sharp debris, standing water due to flooding, and potential structural damage to nearby buildings. Being aware of these dangers equips you to navigate the post-tornado landscape safely. Also, take note of any displaced wildlife, as they too may pose unexpected hazards.

Dress for Protection, Not Comfort

Donning the right attire can serve as your first line of defense against post-tornado risks. Opt for long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and sturdy, closed-toed shoes. Gloves, safety goggles, and ear protection can further minimize your vulnerability to flying debris, sharp objects, and loud, disorienting noises.

Downed power lines are not the only electrical risks in the wake of a tornado. Exposed wires and electrical poles can pose just as much danger. Maintain a safe distance, avoid making contact, and immediately report these hazards to the local power company for prompt, professional resolution.

Carefully Evaluate Structural Integrity

While your home or a neighbor’s house may seem intact, appearances can be deceptive. If a building has sustained any structural damage, it’s advisable to wait for a professional assessment before entering. Even the slightest destabilization can result in a building collapsing, so exercise extreme caution.

Check for Gas Leaks Before Re-Entry

The invisible dangers of gas leaks can turn fatal without warning. If you smell gas, hear a hissing sound, or notice other signs of a leak, immediately leave the area and alert the proper authorities. This isn’t a DIY moment; your safety is the priority.

Be Prepared for Flooding and Water Hazards

Floods are often a secondary disaster that can arise after a tornado. Whether due to heavy rains or river overflow, floods can be extremely dangerous. Always stay clear of standing water, which might be contaminated or harbor unseen currents, and be prepared to adjust your path if confronted with a flooded area.

Handling Wildlife Encounters

Animals too are victims of tornadoes, finding themselves disoriented and far from home. Exercise caution and do not approach any wild animals you encounter. Contact animal control for assistance and seek immediate medical care if bitten or scratched.

By following these guidelines and remaining vigilant, you can navigate the hazardous terrain that a tornado leaves in its wake, ensuring the safety of yourself and those around you. 

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Editorial Staff

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