Tornado with lightning over a green field

The Midwest brings its fair share of severe weather. Severe thunderstorms with hail and strong winds, flash floods, and the dreaded tornado.

When disaster strikes, what do you do next? You’ve been thrown for a loop and there’s damage to your home or your neighbor’s home and you need to act fast. So, what first?

What to do After a Tornado Strikes

  1. Turn on the radio or television before stepping outside of a safe area. Ensure the worst has passed.
  2. Help any injured or trapped persons if it is safe to do so
  3. Give first aid when appropriate, do not move any seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger. Call 911.
  4. If you’ve been evacuated to a school or safe structure, only return home when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  5. Try to use your phone only for emergency phone calls.
  6. Clean up any spilled medicine, bleach, gasoline, or flammable liquids
  7. If you smell natural gas, get out of the building
  8. Take photos of any damage to your house and any belongings – for your insurance claim
  9. Help your neighbors when you can, especially those requiring special assistance i.e. infants, elderly, people with disabilities.


Inspect Your Utilities

If you smell natural gas or hear any hissing sounds, you may have a gas leak. You should open a window and leave the premises immediately. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.

If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.

Filing an Insurance Claim

Make sure to take pictures of before, during, and after clean-up. Document any damaged valuables you find, and take pictures of all damage to the interior or exterior of the home before any repairs are done. These will all bode well for you during an insurance claim.

You should immediately call an agent and report that a storm came through the area and your house is one that is damaged. In instances of tornados or severe weather, they may already be prepared for the influx of calls for insurance claims. You should find out how long it will take to get an inspection and file a claim. In order to be safe, you need to make some proper repairs that would cause immediate danger to you or your family. Clear these with your insurance company as you should be able to include these into your filed claim.

Post-Disaster Clean-up

Remove Any Water – If your basement or house has flooded, the first thing to do is extract the water. Your sump pump should be able to do its job, make sure if you lost power that it has a backup power source or backup battery. Make sure any drains are clear of debris then call your local Service Master for professional clean up of the water damage to prevent mold growth.

Keep air circulating –  Open vents and windows and set up a fan to keep fresh air circulating. Run a dehumidifier in the basement and any room that had water damage.  Mold and mildew can start growing within 48 hours, so the faster water is cleaned up and everything dries, the better.

Remove Wet Drywall – If your drywall gets wet, there is no chance to dry it out, that portion has to be removed and replaced. It holds too high of a potential for mold if left untouched.  The same goes for insulation behind the drywall.

Broken Glass – If windows have blown out or shattered, carefully lean up all the pieces of glass, and wear shoes whenever you are cleaning up inside your house to protect yourself. You will have to board them up until repairs can be made. Contact your local glass store or contractor for help.

Yard cleanup – Your yard may be filled with branches, debris, or downed trees. Collect large items first and put them to the curb. Use a saw or chainsaw to cut up larger pieces of wood, and rake everything else into piles.

Roofing Damage – Inspect your roof for shingles that might have come loose, blown, or have divets from hail and debris damage. Any exposed roof can cause future leaks and damage to your roof, so a consultation should be done as soon as possible for repairs. If damage if very bad, lay tarps on the roof to prevent any leaks in the meantime.


Most importantly, once you and your family are safe and secure, and you’ve assessed any major threats give Service Master a call for all your post-storm clean-up needs. Service Master can help with immediate emergency clean-up as well as mold removal and repair if that occurs. We offer carpet cleaning, water mitigation, drywall repair, everything you need. Our phones are open 24/7 so call us anytime at 612-263-7053.