Tornado Preparedness in the Workplace

March 2017

Tornadoes strike quickly with little or no warning, and when they do strike, businesses can suffer. Taking precautions in advance of the storms is the most important step you can take to help keep you and your employees safe.

Preparing for a Tornado

  1. Monitor the weather for severe thunderstorms in your area. Have a weather alert radio in the workplace.
  2. Know the warning system for your community. Does your area have a siren system?
  3. Learn the terminology. A WATCH is issued when weather conditions favor the formation of tornadoes and you should be prepared to take shelter if conditions worsen. A WARNING is issued when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by weather radar and you should take shelter immediately.
  4. Establish pre-designated shelter locations. The safest location is always a basement. If there is not a basement,  go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  5. Store emergency supply kits in shelter locations. FEMA recommends the following items for a basic disaster supplies kit:
  • Water: one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  1. Educate employees. Put the plan in writing and give a copy to all employees. Form checklists and delegate duties. Ensure every person knows his/her role. Designate and train alternative employees in case the assigned person is not there or injured. Enforce plan to ensure all employees are accounted for after the tornado.
  2. Develop plans for customers if there is a likelihood of customers being present during a storm situation.
  3. Practice your emergency plan. Conduct scheduled drills.
  4. Communication following a disaster is critical. In advance, establish a communication plan that will work regardless of the nature of the disaster. For example, consider setting up a toll-free number or website, make sure they are operated out of areas that aren't disaster-prone and are located away from your workplace. Give employees instructions on when, how, and what to communicate through those methods following a disaster. Have all employee, vendor and client contact information on hand.

After The Tornado

  1. Remember that injuries can occur after the tornado. Employers should educate employees of these possible hazards. According to OSHA, some of the specific hazards associated with the aftermath of tornadoes include:
  • Hazardous driving conditions due to slippery and/or blocked roadways
  • Slips and falls due to slippery walkways
  • Falling and flying objects such as tree limbs and utility poles
  • Sharp objects including nails and broken glass
  • Electrical hazards from downed power lines or downed objects in contact with power lines
  • Falls from heights
  • Burns from fires caused by energized line contact or equipment failure
  • Exhaustion from working extended shifts
  • Heat and Dehydration
  1. There is always the possibility of another storm shortly after the first one. Continue to monitor weather alerts for emergency information.
  2. Put communication plan into action. Account for all employees and notify critical people of next steps, based on damage.




American Red Cross

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

United States Environmental Protection Agency


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