Habitat Ready: Disaster preparedness for homeowners

A thunderstorm is a rain shower with thunder and lightning. All thunderstorms are dangerous, but if conditions are right, a severe thunderstorm may occur.

Thunderstorms last an average of 30 minutes and can cause dangerous lightning, large hail, flash flooding, tornadoes and strong winds. They often develop quickly and with little warning, so it’s important to learn the danger signs and plan ahead.

Before a thunderstorm

  • Review your family preparedness plan.
  • Establish a family communications plan.
  • Assemble a disaster supply kit.
  • Be familiar with thunderstorm warning signs:
    • Dark, towering and threatening clouds.
    • Distant thunder and lightning.
    • A sudden increase in wind.
  • Know the difference between a severe thunderstorm WATCH and a severe thunderstorm WARNING:
    • Severe thunderstorm WATCH: A severe thunderstorm is possible. Stay tuned to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio or TV for more information.
    • Severe thunderstorm WARNING: A severe thunderstorm is expected or occurring. Take shelter immediately.
  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause damage or injury.
  • Secure outdoor objects such as furniture, toys and tools that could blow away.
  • Close windows, secure outside doors and unplug electronic equipment.
  • Get inside a home, building or hard-top automobile.
What is a severe thunderstorm?
A severe thunderstorm contains one or more of the following:
• Hail greater than 1 inch in diameter.
• Winds gusting over 57 miles per hour.
• A tornado.

During a thunderstorm

  • If indoors:
    • Avoid contact with electrical equipment such as telephones and TVs.
    • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not take a shower, wash the dishes, etc.
    • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • If outdoors:
    • Try to take shelter in a nearby building or car.
    • If no shelter is available, go to an open space in a low-lying area.

After a thunderstorm

  • Continue listening to a NOAA weather radio or TV for updated information.
  • Assist injured people. If lightning strikes a person:
    • Check the site for safety. Move the victim to a safer area only if necessary.
    • Call 911 yourself or have someone else call 911 immediately. Even if the victim seems OK, serious problems can occur later.
  • Care: Check the following and act:
    • Consciousness: Loudly call, “Hey, are you OK?” Gently but forcefully poke his or her shoulder and ask again. If there is no response, then:
    • Breathing: Put your ear near the victim’s mouth to listen and feel breath, and look for the chest to rise, but do so for no more than 10 seconds. If no breathing is evident, open the airway and give two rescue breaths.
    • Check for severe bleeding: Quickly scan the person’s body and stop severe bleeding. Have someone help you if available.
    • Begin CPR: 30 chest compressions (2 inches deep at a rate of 100 per minute). Check again for breathing, and if there is no breathing repeat two rescue breaths followed by 30 chest compressions. Do not stop until there are visible signs of the victim’s recovery, until you collapse or are relieved, or until rescue personnel arrive.
  • Inspect your home:
    • Leave the house if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
    • Check for damage to walls, the roof, the foundation, the electrical system and water lines.
    • Notify your insurance company if your home is damaged.
  • Be aware of the threat of flooding caused by heavy rainfall.
  • Stay away from flooded roadways, storm-damaged areas and downed power lines.
  • Avoid making phone calls except in serious emergencies.

Additional resources

Emergency/preparedness information

Current storm information

Thunderstorm and lightning information

Other information

Floods and flash floods

Some floods develop slowly, while others develop in just minutes. Being prepared and taking mitigation measures, such as building away from floodplains and elevating homes, can reduce the risk of damage and injuries in a flood.

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Tornadoes are earth’s most violent storms and often form quickly, leaving little time to make life-or-death decisions. To survive a tornado, advanced planning and a quick response are essential.

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You can help a family rebuild after a disaster

Families who partner with us rebuild their homes alongside volunteers, pay an affordable mortgage and are grateful for your help.