Severe Thunderstorms – Mitigation (Actions Before, During, After)


When it comes to severe thunderstorms, it’s better to take caution and seek shelter in a substantial building or storm shelter, as tornadoes can form very quickly.

The following actions are some important recommendations that you can follow through each stage of a Severe Thunderstorm emergency:[1] [2]

Actions Before: Increase Knowledge, Determine Risk, Safeguard, Plan

General All-Hazard Actions:

  • Determine the disaster risks in your locale and the hazards that accompany them.
  • Increase your knowledge about the emergency warning signals and alert notifications used in your community.
  • Instruct family members how to shut off water, gas and electricity to your house.
  • Make the necessary property preparations to reduce the damage from the hazard.
  • Acquire a backup generator in case of a prolonged power failure.
  • Check into insurance (property, health, life, and hazard type).
  • Make the necessary financial arrangements in case of a sudden evacuation and power outage that shuts down local ATMs and banks.
  • Organize important documents and records and store them in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Perform home inventory video taping and store tape in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Develop an Emergency Communication Plan with evacuation plan and ask an out-of-state person to serve as the "family contact".
  • Assemble a shelter-in-place Emergency Supplies Kit.
  • Assemble a mobile Emergency Supplies Kit that can serve as a “grab and go” bag?
  • Get a family member trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Make the necessary preparations and arrangements for pets, seniors, and the disabled.
  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency plans of your family member's employment building, school, day care center, or nursing home.

Hazard Specific Actions:

  • Check trees and shrubbery, and remove limbs that could damage your house or utility lines.
  • Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
  • 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.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.
  • Make trees and shrubbery more wind resistant by keeping them trimmed and removing damaged branches.
  • Protect your animals by ensuring that any outside buildings that house them are protected in the same way as your home.
  • Consult your local fire department if you are considering installing lightning rods.
  • Install electric surge protectors and battery backup devices.

Actions During: Safety Basics, Evacuation, Shelter in Place

  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.
  • Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
  • Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
  • If you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike), squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact it the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground.

If you are in a forest:

  • Seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.

If you are in an open area:

  • Go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods.

If you are in open water:

  • Get to land and find shelter immediately.

Actions After: Get Disaster Relief, Clean-up, Salvage

If someone is struck by lightning. The following are things you should check when you attempt to give aid to a victim of lightning:

  • Call 9-1-1 for medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Breathing: if breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Heartbeat: if the heart has stopped, administer CPR.
  • Pulse: if the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Also be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing and eyesight.

General Tips:

  • Follow through with your Communications Plan. If all of your family members are not present, report to your family's pre-designated meeting point, unless emergency officials direct otherwise.
  • Call 9-1-1 to report injured or trapped persons. Give first aid where appropriate, but do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger. Never enter any building that appears to have suffered structural damage or that poses any other hazards.
  • Continue listening to local radio or television stations and your NOAA Weather Radio for updated information.
  • Assess any damage to your home or immediate surroundings. Be aware of any potential hazards such as ruptured gas lines, structural damage to your home, downed electrical lines, and localized flooding.
  • Report fallen trees, flooded streets, or damaged public utilities to the proper authorities.
  • Take pictures of the damage for insurance claims.
  • Remember to help neighbors who may need assistance.



  1. American Red Cross, CDC – Emergency Preparedness and Response, FEMA – Are You Ready? Guide,, Be a Force of Nature with NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation, National Weather Service Weather Safety
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