NIOSH Creates Web Page for Tornado Response Safety

June 1, 2011
There’s a reason why they’re called first responders: They’re the first on the scene after natural and manmade disasters strike, when conditions are at their most dangerous.

Recommendations and resources are available for state and local response personnel, health care workers, shelter workers and other responders from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on a new web page. Information can be found on the page to help them stay safe during tornado response and cleanup. The new resource is available at

Emergency-response directors and supervisors should be aware of the potential work-related dangers involved in the aftermath of a tornado, and should establish and enforce proper safety programs. Injuries and illnesses in the line of duty are preventable. Workers and volunteers involved with tornado cleanup should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and of the proper safety and health precautions.

“As we were reminded this week by the devastation in Missouri, Oklahoma, and other states, tornados and other natural disasters take a horrific human toll,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “Communities depend on clean-up crews, healthcare workers, and those who work or volunteer in emergency shelters to aid in recovery from such destruction. It is important to emphasize that those duties often involve potential hazards, and that strategic safety and health measures are vital for protecting workers and volunteers in the course of tornado response.”

Work-related hazards that could be encountered in tornado clean-up and recovery include electrical hazards, carbon monoxide exposures, musculoskeletal hazards, heat stress, motor vehicle and large machinery incidents, hazardous materials, fire, confined spaces and falls. In some areas, hazards could include snake bites and bites from other animals and reptiles.

NIOSH also noted that people working or volunteering in evacuation centers, shelters, clinics or hospitals may face challenges related to potentially crowded conditions, long working hours, and urgent demands for care and assistance. Those challenges include risks of fatigue, stress and illness.

The new web page includes resources for planning and carrying out safe recovery work, including fact sheets on hazards, recommendations for preventing injuries and illnesses and survey forms for on-site use in identifying risk factors and documenting that proper safety measures have been taken.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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