As with any disaster, preparation can be the difference between life and death. The Red Cross recommends that individuals and families prepare for severe thunderstorms by:
Make a Home Disaster Plan: Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail. Protect your animals by ensuring that any outside buildings that house them are protected in the same way as your home. Remove animals from vulnerable dog houses and similar small structures.
Create an Emergency Preparedness Kit: Pack a first aid kit and essential medications, canned food and can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries.
Heed Storm Warnings: A severe storm WATCH means severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. People in a watch area should keep informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. A severe storm WARNING means severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. Seek shelter immediately. The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
Prepare for High Winds: If you have time, secure lawn furniture, outdoor decorations, trash cans, hanging plants and anything else that can be picked up by wind.
Before Lightning Strikes
- Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light or increasing winds. Listen for the sound of thunder.
- If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately. The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
When Storm Approaches
- Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.
- Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
- Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
If Caught Outside
- Go to low-lying, open place away from trees, poles or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not flooding.
- Make yourself the smallest target possible. Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them.
- If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
- If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
If Someone Is Struck By Lightning
- People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely.
- Call for help. Get someone to dial 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) number.
- Give first aid. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR.
Red Cross Apps
The Red Cross has a free mobile app around severe weather called, Tornado. It provides information on what to do before, during and after emergencies including developing an emergency plan. People can use the ‘Make a Plan’ feature in the apps to create their plan and then share it with their loved ones. The preloaded content, in English or Spanish, gives people access to vital information to use during emergencies, even if they can’t connect to the internet. The apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.