Learn the thunderstorm danger signs
- Dark, towering, or threatening clouds
- Distant lightning and thunder
Have disaster supplies on hand
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- First aid kit and manual
- Emergency food and water
- Nonelectric can opener
- Essential medicines
- Cash and credit cards
- Sturdy shoes
Prepare your home and family
- Dead or rotting trees and branches can fall during a severe
thunderstorm and cause injury and damage.
- Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a
- Teach family members how and when to turn off gas,
electricity and water.
- Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, fire
department, and which radio or TV station to tune for emergency
Develop an emergency communication plan
In case family members are separated from one another
during a thunderstorm (a real possibility during the day when
adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for
getting back together.
Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family
contact". After a disaster, it's often easier to call long
distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone
number of the contact person.
Contact you local emergency management office or American Red
Cross chapter for more information on thunderstorms and
- Secure outdoor objects such as lawn furniture that could blow
away or cause damage or injury.
- Take light objects inside.
- Shutter windows securely and brace outside doors.
- Listen to a battery operated radio or television for the
latest storm information.
- Do not handle any electrical equipment or telephones because
lightning could follow the wire.
- Television sets are particularly dangerous at this time.
- Avoid bathtubs, water faucets, and sinks because metal pipes
can transmit electricity.
- Attempt to get into a building or car.
- If no structure is available, get to an open space an squat
low to the ground as quickly as possible. (If in the woods, find
an area protected by low clump of trees--never stand underneath a
single large tree in the open.)
- Be aware of the potential for flooding in low-lying
- Crouch with hands on knees.
- Avoid tall structures such as towers, tall trees, fences,
telephone lines, or power lines.
- Stay away from natural lightning rods such as golf clubs,
tractors, fishing rods, bicycles, or camping equipment.
- Stay away from rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water.
- If you are isolated in a level field or prairie and you feel
your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about
to strike), bend forward, putting your hands on your knees. A
position with feet together and crouching while removing all
metal objects is recommended. Do not lie flat on the ground.
If in a car:
- Pull safely onto the shoulder of the road away from any trees
that could fall on the vehicle.
- Stay in the car and turn on the emergency flashers until the
heavy rains subside.
- Avoid flooded roadways.
Estimating the Distance from a Thunderstorm
Because light travels much faster than sound, lightning
flashes can be seen long before the resulting thunder is heard.
Estimate the number of miles you are from a thunderstorm by
counting the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the
next clap of thunder. Divide this number by five.
Important: You are in danger from lightning if you can hear
thunder. Knowing how far away a storm is does not mean that you're
in danger only when the storm is overhead.
Hail is produced by many strong thunderstorms. Hail can be
smaller than a pea or as large as a softball and can be very
destructive to plants and crops. In a hailstorm, take cover
immediately. Pets and livestock are particularly vulnerable to
hail, so bring animals into a shelter.
Check for injuries
A person who has been struck by lightning does not carry an
electrical charge that can shock other people. If the victim is
burned, provide first aid and call emergency medical assistance
immediately. Look for burns where lightning entered and exited the
body. If the strike cause the victim's heart and breathing to stop,
give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until medical
professionals arrive and take over.
- Remember to help your neighbors who may require special
assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with
- Report downed utility wires.
- Drive only if necessary. Debris and washed-out roads may make
Federal Emergency Management
Updated: January 30, 1998