Here is a checklist for safe, fast cleanup after a tornado. It's more important if the security of
a building envelope was breached, or if a home is uninhabitable.
1. Take photos of the damage. This is important for insurers and the National Weather
Service. Get photos of building failure, especially of the "Continuous Load Path" connecting
the building to the ground, from the top of the roof, through the structure, and the
foundation, to the ground. Get photos showing orientation of debris. This is used to
distinguish tornadoes from straight-line winds of similar speed.
2. Sweep streets of debris, for first responders and heavy equipment.
3. Sweep streets of metal debris, especially building fasteners. Motorists all over Kiowa
County reported flat tires from metal building debris after the 2007 EF5 tornado in
4. People working amid debris should have:
a) Tetanus shots up to date
b) Shoes with dense lug soles
c) Hard hats or similar helmets if possible
d) Work gloves of leather
e) Personal first-aid kits
"Sort to Save"
5. Pick up "debris" and sort for processing
a) Personal property: collect & remove to safe storage ASAP, away from looters & bad
weather. Include all papers, artwork, ceramics, books, etc., which are damaged - they can
usually be restored by professional conservators, later.
"Deconstruction, not Demolition"
b) Collect & sort onsite all building wreckage for re-use & recycling, if at all possible.
Categories include, but are not limited to:
Electrical & communications wiring & conduits
Glass (mirrors, windows, & auto glass) - wear leather gloves to pick up, collect; sort later
Metal, including wrecked appliances
Tiles of ceramic & stone
c) Wood wreckage from trees: sort by size into piles
Leaves: for compost
Twigs: kindling for local campfires and wood-burning heaters, fireplaces, cookstoves
Branches & trunks: firewood, wood products including furniture & craft items
It might be a good idea for some places & people to bring in someone to run a portable
sawmill to cut tree trunks & big branches into boards on site. You can use your search
engine to look up "portable sawmills," and contact your State or local forestry or agriculture
department for referrals. Manufacturers of portable sawmills might also be able to refer you
to local operators of portable sawmills.
Recycling sales must remunerate owners, not scavengers or looters. Political jurisdictions,
NGOs, local organizations, and companies all could be involved in setting up and operating
a system to do this. Many tornadoes happen in rural areas with poor access to recycling
programs, especially for people whose cars were also wrecked. Police guarding of sites
must continue until cleanup is done.
d) It might also be necessary to sift the top layer of soil, with screens used by
anthropologists and paleontologists, to remove small debris and personal property. Testing
of the soil for chemical contaminants from broken containers and pipes might also be a
good idea. This should be done in small batches, since leaking substances might not have
traveled very far. Clean, debris-free soil can be put back where it was to be used for
decorative and edible plantings.
Construction & Demolition Recycling Association
1585 Beverly Ct., Ste. 112
Aurora IL 60502
gypsum drywall recycling
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc.
1615 L St. NW, Ste. 600
Washington DC 20036
Steel Recycling Institute
680 Andersen Dr.
Pittsburgh PA 15220-2700
Steel Recycling Database
Urban Forest Products Alliance
Scrap wood use
Wind Wood Utilization
Council for Textile Recycling
3465 Box Hill Corporate Center Dr., Ste. H
Abingdon MD 21009
Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles
Same contact info as CTR
(443) 640-1050 ext. 112
Glass Packaging Institute
1001 N. Fairfax St., Ste. 301A
Alexandria VA 22314
International Professional Data Recovery Association
Use webform or contact members directly
For data recovery from damaged computers and removable storage devices