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Plan & Prepare

What to do Before a Thunderstorm

(Much of the information on this page is adapted from information provided by the American Red Cross, FEMA and the National Weather Service).

Thunderstorms And Lightning: Basic Preparedness

As with other types of emergency, you should prepare yourself and your family by creating an Emergency Supply Kit and a Family Disaster Plan. See NJOEM's Basic Preparedness page for more details.

  • Your Kit includes items that will help you stay self-sufficient for up to three days, if needed.
  • Your Plan includes evacuation plans, a place to reunite with loved ones, and an out-of-state contact person.

Check for hazards in the yard outside your home. Dead or rotting trees and branches can fall during a severe thunderstorm and cause injury or property damage.

Know the warning signs: Look for darkening skies, dark and towering clouds, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for thunder. If you can hear thunder you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning and should go to safe shelter immediately.

Stay Tuned: Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or your local radio and television stations for weather updates, Storm Watches or Warnings, and emergency instructions from public safety Officials. Remember: A battery-powered radio is a vital part of your Emergency Supply Kit. You can also track current weather conditions with links available on our Current Weather/Traffic Web page.

Listen For Storm Watches And Warnings

The National Weather Service issues a Severe Thunderstorm Watch when a severe thunderstorm is likely to develop soon. This is the time to locate a safe place in the home and tell family members to watch the sky and listen to the radio or TV for more information.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when a severe thunderstorm has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. At this point the danger is very serious. Everyone should go to a safe place, turn on a battery-operated radio or TV and wait for the "all clear" from the authorities.

Estimating The Distance Of A Thunderstorm

To estimate the distance:

  • Count the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder.
  • Divide this number by 5 to determine the distance to the lightning in miles.

The 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule:

  • If you cannot count to 30 seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder, GO INDOORS.
  • STAY INDOORS for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
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New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
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Trenton, NJ 08628


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