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Think about Health, Safety after Tornadoes and Floods

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 | 09:37am

NASHVILLE – More than half of tornado-related injuries in one situation came during rescue attempts and clean-up work, according to a recent Federal Emergency Management Agency study. As Tennessee moves into its prime tornado and flooding season, officials with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency remind residents to think about health and safety after a disaster occurs.

“We traditionally emphasize how to prepare for a disaster, including having a personal survival kit and a plan of action to be self-sufficient for 72 hours, but it’s just as important to talk about what you should do after a tornado or flood occurs,” said Stephen May, MD, medical director for the TDH Emergency Preparedness Program. “First and foremost, don’t attempt to move a seriously injured person unless that is necessary to protect him or her from further injury. If someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR; if the person is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound. Get medical assistance as quickly as you can, but be prepared and understand it may take some time for responders to arrive.”

“Hazards abound after a tornado or flood, from downed power lines and broken gas pipes to broken glass and exposed nails,” said Cecil Whaley with TEMA’s Planning and Exercises Division. “Assume every power line is still carrying electricity and report those as quickly as possible. Never try to move one yourself. If a disaster strikes at night and you have no source of light, stay where you are and don’t move.”

Some others tips offered by TEMA and TDH emergency preparedness staff members include:

  • Monitor your battery powered radio or use your cell phone at short intervals. Using either continuously will quickly drain the power supply. Stay off your phone unless it is critical for you to make a call to help prevent telephone communications channels from being overused.
  • Use battery-powered lights instead of candles. If you must use a candle, be sure there is not a gas leak nearby and stay away from flammable materials.
  • Be aware generators, stoves, grills and other devices may produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, deadly gas. Avoid using them in enclosed spaces.
  • If you must enter a damaged structure, wear heavy-soled shoes, a long sleeved shirt and pants and gloves.
  • Always comply with requests from public safety officials and stay away from damaged areas unless you have been called upon to help. Sometimes well-meaning volunteers can hamper emergency response work.
  • Shut off power to your home at the main circuit breaker if you suspect any damage. If you smell the odor of rotten eggs, notify police immediately of a potential gas leak.
  • If you are not familiar with power tools and chain saws, let someone else use them for clean-up work.
  • If you see any spilled medicines or potentially dangerous chemicals, be cautious in cleaning those up yourself. Cover them if possible until professional help arrives.

Individuals may consider online FEMA Community Emergency Response Team training to be better prepared for challenges after a disaster. For more information about training, visit

“In the not-too-distant past, information about surviving tornadoes, floods or other disasters was only available in books or classroom settings,” said May. “Today there’s a wealth of information available via the Internet to help every person, family and business be prepared. We all just need to set aside a few minutes to learn those preparation and response measures and to have a plan and the materials needed to survive.”

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments.  Learn more about TDH services and programs at

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency | Health | Press Releases