Even though they are common across the country, every thunderstorm is dangerous and has the potential to cause significant damage. These storms can bring flooding, lightning, and a host of other troublesome conditions. As a result of this, it is crucial that you have a plan for how to handle these storms seriously. Thunderstorms can happen at any time, and almost in any part of the country. So, it makes sense to have a strategy that you can quickly put into place to ensure the safety of you, your family, and your property.
The most effective way to prepare for a thunderstorm is to have a plan to locate immediate shelter, take steps to protect the exterior of your home, and work with your family to deactivate all electronic devices within the house.
Again, thunderstorms can be the catalyst for a large number of dangerous situations. You want to ensure that you have taken the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your family, and your home. The last thing you want is to realize there were steps you failed to take when a thunderstorm is on its way.
Once you hear the first roll of thunder, it is too late to prepare. So, we invite you to use our additional tips below to create a checklist to develop a plan to prepare for a thunderstorm properly.
Know Your Area’s Weather History
Knowing the weather history —concerning thunderstorm occurrences—allows you to have a leg up on preparation. You may live in an area that only gets thunderstorms during certain parts of the year, or you may reside in a location that is always at risk. So, it pays to be aware of this information so you know how in-depth your preparation should be.
For example, going to the beach or a nearby body of water may be a favorite activity. If you know that thunderstorms are frequent in your area, you can adequately prepare by identifying nearby places for shelter. It could also help you avoid this activity altogether for certain times of the year.
Thunderstorms can bring flooding, lightning strikes, and even hail. You want to be aware of when these events could occur, the weather patterns that could signal their presence, and how severe these storms can become in your area. If thunderstorms are common, you may need to alter the exterior of your home or even change the plants and trees in your backyard.
In short, knowing your location’s weather patterns will help you understand when to be on alert, and can also help you decide which preparation tactics you should make a priority.
Secure and Protect Your Home
A severe thunderstorm can cause significant damage to the inside and outside of your home. Before one arrives, it is essential to protect your house from harm.
There are steps you should take in advance to prepare for a future storm, and actions that should happen immediately before the storm’s arrival.
To prepare in advance, you should remove any dead branches or trees from your yard. Both can either be struck by lighting or impacted by heavy rain or hail. The damage could eventually cause trees to fall on your home (or the home of your neighbor).
Then, take time to ensure that your home does not require any significant exterior repairs. Look out for any holes in your roof or walls, as any exterior problems could make your home more vulnerable to damage.
You may also want to consider purchasing surge protectors or lightning rods for an extra layer of protection for your home and appliances.
If a storm has been spotted and is on its way to your home, you should immediately take the following steps:
- Unplug all electronics.
- Secure or store any outdoor objects that could be impacted by winds.
- Avoid the use of all landline phones.
- Do not use any running water.
If you prepare your home ahead of time and follow the immediate actions listed above, you can significantly reduce the chances for your home to experience damage. Also, any steps to protect your home will also ensure the security of those within it.
Have a Plan to Find Shelter
This step may be one of the most critical pieces of your preparation plan. If you have taken the steps above to secure your home, then you are halfway there. However, you need to ensure you have a place to go if you are not at home.
The goal is to find a secure building that can withstand winds, hail, and flooding. While you may not be able to find this exact type of location depending on where you are, you need to locate a shelter that is as close to it as possible.
Sit down with your family to come up with a strategy for locating a shelter that is sturdy and close by if they are not at home. Here are a few scenarios that could occur and the corresponding ideal options for shelter:
- If you are in a vehicle when a thunderstorm occurs stay inside of it. The metal inside a car can attract lightning, so it is safer to be inside of your vehicle then venturing out to find another form of shelter.
- If you find yourself outside without any shelter insight, search out the lowest area that you can find and wait among small trees. If you are in an open area without any trees, search out a low valley or ravine. The goal is to locate an area that is low in relation to the sky. This process will significantly decrease your chances of being struck by lightning.
- Always stay where you are if you are in a secured place of shelter. Whether you or your family are at work, school, or a grocery store, stay where you are. Under no circumstances should anyone be outdoors if a thunderstorm is in progress.
Thunderstorms are likely to happen while you and your family are separated. Ensure they know what to do if they find themselves in any of the above situations.
Stay Up-To-Date on News Alerts
Consistent weather reports are crucial during a thunderstorm. Since the presence of lightning can lead to power outages, always have a hand-cranked or battery-operated radio on hand. A radio will allow you to stay up-to-date on weather reports, even if you lose power.
Know the radio stations in your area that cover local weather, and also locate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio station.
These stations will offer consistent information regarding current weather patterns when a storm has touched down, the areas impacted, the severity of the storm, and the amount of time it is likely to last.
If you are in an area that is away from your home, these news reports will give you information on when it is okay to leave, and what to expect with regards to flooding, winds, and hail.
Weather reports can also advise you if a thunderstorm has developed into a more severe weather condition like a tornado. This development will drastically change your preparation plans, so be prepared to shift strategies if the situation calls for it.
Prepare for a Power Outage
Again, thunderstorms consistently cause weather conditions that can lead to mass power outages. While these outages may not last longer than 24 hours (depending on the severity of the situation) it still pays to prepare.
Here are some ways you and your family can get ready for a power outage due to a thunderstorm:
- Practice effective food management – If left unopened, your refrigerator will keep cold for four hours, while a freezer will keep its temperature for up to two days. So, plan out the items you will retrieve from the refrigerator ahead of time to diminish the amount of time you release cold air. You should also invest in purchasing a cooler to have an additional location for food storage. If you are at home, eat any perishable items first to prevent them from going bad.
- Turn off all electrical devices – This was mentioned above, but it is worth covering again. A thunderstorm can cause a surge once the power has returned. This event could damage electronic devices and appliances.
- Develop an emergency kit – Again, you will likely not be out of power for a long time, but a powerful storm increases your chances to be without essentials for days. So, work with your family to create an emergency kit to utilize during the storm:
- First-aid kit
- Non-perishable food items (you may want to only focus on smaller snacks since the refrigerator should preserve your food for a good portion of the time your power is unavailable).
- One gallon of water per family member per day
- A manual can opener
- A multi-tool
- Fire extinguisher
- Portable USB charger
- A spare and simple cellphone
- Essential medications
- Toiletries and personal hygiene products
- Books and games
- Any additional items specific to your family situation (the inclusion of dogs, babies, older relatives)
Always ensure that your emergency kit is located in a place that is easy for everyone to find. You should also include a variation of this kit in your vehicle and workplace. Alter it as you see fit for your situation.
Thunderstorms can cause a considerable amount of damage and should be taken seriously. That is why it is crucial to have a plan to protect your family, your home, and yourself.
Use the steps above to work with your family to come up with a strategy to prepare for a thunderstorm, and discuss ways to stay safe as it moves through your area. Sound preparation can prevent a tragedy as well as costly damage.