Did you know that lightning strikes more than eight million times a day worldwide? Or that a single lightning bolt is five times hotter than the sun’s surface?
While there may be a lot of “fun facts” about lightning, what’s not fun is getting stuck in a thunderstorm. In fact, it can be outright dangerous if you don’t take the right precautions.
That’s why we’re here with the facts on how to prepare for a thunderstorm so you keep yourself, your family and your assets safe.
Before the thunder rolls
Thunderstorms are most likely to occur in the spring and summer months, but can happen year-round, so it’s important to always know your area’s risk. You can do so by staying up-to-date on local weather forecasts and signing up for your community’s warning system. You can also opt-in to receive notifications from weather apps when a storm is in the forecast.
In addition, pay close attention to whether you’re under a watch or warning, because there’s a difference. A “Severe Thunderstorm Watch” means that thunderstorms are possible in and around the watch area. A “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” means that severe weather has been reported nearby, and there’s imminent danger to life and property.
Shelter from the storm
Think ahead about where you’d seek shelter during a thunderstorm, especially if you aren’t home when one occurs. Identify sturdy buildings in your neighborhood or near your workplace that you could easily get to at the start of a storm. Take time before a storm hits to develop a family emergency plan.
Assuming you will be home during a severe storm warning, choose a safe place for you, your family, and your pets to gather inside. Remember to stay away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could break and cause harm during strong winds. After that, head outdoors to investigate whether any trees need to be trimmed to avoid having them fall on your home.
Next, look around the house for any and all supplies that would be helpful during a thunderstorm, such as surge protectors and flashlights, and consider investing in a lightning protection system to guard your home, appliances and electronic devices from damage.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, about $909 million in lightning claims was paid out in 2018 to almost 78,000 policyholders. This underlines the importance of understanding your insurance options and choosing the right coverage in case of any damage to your assets.
The good news is lightning is considered a covered loss within standard property insurance policies, so if you have adequate homeowners insurance coverage, you should be in good shape. Make sure your home is appropriately valued – if it’s not, you may not get your property fully rebuilt. In addition, having renters insurance coverage will protect your personal property (not your dwelling itself) against fire and lightning damage. When it comes to auto insurance, you need comprehensive coverage in order to be covered in a lightning strike situation. This insurance pays for any damages not related to collisions, minus your deductible.
Just don’t wait until after damage has occurred to get insured; you need to have your policy in place prior to an incident in order to be covered.
Riding the storm out
When a Severe Thunderstorm Warning goes into effect, that’s your cue to take shelter. Find the safest location within your home or other sturdy building, making sure those who need extra assistance (including your pets) make their way to the designated spot. Some things to avoid while you’re waiting out the storm include water, electronic equipment, corded phones and concrete floors and walls, because they all pose safety risks. However, you can still use your smartphones, cordless phones and battery-operated devices.
If you’re outdoors when a storm starts, head inside as soon as possible. As an alternative, you can get inside your car; while it’s not as safe as being indoors, it’s better than staying outside. It’s the metal (not the wheels as is often thought) that will give you some protection, because the metal shell disperses the lightning around you and to the ground.
If you aren’t near your car, your next best bet is to stay low to the ground, so you’re not the tallest object in the storm’s path. If you’re in or near water, get out or move away, since water is a conductor of electricity.
Here comes the sun
When the thunder stops booming and the last flash of lightning strikes, you may think you’re out of harm’s way. However, continue listening to local news or NOAA Weather Radio to make sure another storm isn’t headed in your direction.
Once you’re in the clear, take a minute and send messages to your family and friends letting them know you’re OK and making sure they aren’t in need of any help. Texts and social media are often the best forms of communication after a storm because phones aren’t always as reliable.
When assessing damage in and around your home, do so with caution. Wear protective clothing, and stay away from damaged buildings or downed power lines. Take pictures of any damage to your house or vehicle for use as documentation when submitting an insurance claim. And don’t wait long to do so – insurance companies usually limit the time you have for making a claim, so you don’t want to miss your window.
Now that you have the facts for staying safe, you’ll be ready to ride out the next storm until the sun shines again.