Lessons from the Field: Tornadoes Carve Path of Destruction Across North Texas

Generally speaking, the key to moving forward is to avoid looking back. But that’s not entirely true when it comes to workplace safety.

Over the holiday weekend, 11 tornados swept the Dallas area. The destruction included 50,000 power outages, 1,000 leveled homes and buildings, and, most important, 11 fatalities, including an infant.

In the wake of the widespread devastation, Gov. Gregg Abbott declared a state of emergency in Dallas, Ellis, Rockwall and Collin Counties. State and federal agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, are on hand to help assess and reverse the damage.

Red Cross Offers Tornado App

The American Red Cross offers an app that helps you weather tornados. The app features a tornado warning notification, location-based shelter maps, step-by-step guides to creating an emergency response plan, and interactive quizzes that test your knowledge. Preloaded content provides instant access to safety information, even without reception or an Internet connection.

In light of the work facing our neighbors to the north, it might seem counterproductive to look
in our rearview mirrors at the weekend’s devastation. But safety professionals know we can
learn valuable lessons from previous emergencies. Those lessons can help us prepare for future emergencies.

With that in mind, here are a handful of tips for weathering tornados and the secondary hazards that often blow in with them.

The calm before the storm

  • Create an emergency response plan, and practice it regularly.
  • Assemble an emergency kit that includes food, water, blankets, first aid supplies and prescription medications. You should have enough supplies to last at least 72 hours.
  • Learn the key threat assessment terminology. A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible, so stay alert for approaching storms. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
  • Make accommodations for people who have special needs. For example, a person in a wheelchair may need help getting to a safe place.
  • Identify a safe room where people can gather during a tornado.

In the eye of the storm

  • Watch for the warning signs, such as dark, greenish skies; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating); and a loud roar, similar to a freight train.
  • Get to a safe place away from windows. The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If no underground shelter is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
  • Protect your head. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris.
  • If you are caught outside, get into a ditch or gully. If possible, lie flatly and cover your head with your arms.
  • Remember that a vehicle is the least-desirable place to be during a tornado. If you have to shelter in a vehicle, put your seat belt on, get your head below window-level, and cover it with your hands and a blanket if possible.

All’s quite now

  • Continue listening to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
  • If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Report fallen power lines and broken gas lines to the utility company immediately.
  • Tell friends and family you’re safe. the American Red Cross Safe and Well web site offers central location for people in disaster areas in the United States to register their current status, and for their loved ones to access that information. You can also call 1-866-GET-INFO to register.


Texas Mutual’s Work Safe, Texas website


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

American Red Cross

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