How To Stay Safe During Electrical Storms: Expert Advice

How To Stay Safe During Electrical Storms: Expert Advice

Essential Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Home

Are you prepared and staying safe during electrical storms in Wilmington, NC? 

Staying safe during electrical storms is crucial to protecting yourself, your family, and your property. 

Electrical storms bring a variety of dangers, from lightning strikes and power outages to flash floods and high winds. 

In this guide, we’ll provide expert advice from Mister Sparky of Wilmington, NC on how to stay safe and prepared before, during, and after an electrical storm.


Understanding Electrical Storms

Electrical storms, also known as thunderstorms, are common weather phenomena characterized by the presence of lightning and thunder. 

These storms can occur in any season and at any time of day, posing significant risks to people and property. 

Understanding the nature of these storms and their associated dangers is the first step in effective preparation and safety.


Lightbulb with question mark.
Photo from iStock – Credit: Talaj

What Are Electrical Storms?

Electrical storms are formed when there is a combination of moisture, rapidly rising warm air, and a force capable of lifting air, such as a front. 

These conditions create the necessary environment for the development of cumulonimbus clouds, which are the breeding ground for thunderstorms.


Key Characteristics of Electrical Storms:

Lightning: The most dangerous aspect, lightning can cause severe injuries, fatalities, and fires. A lightning bolt can reach temperatures of up to 30,000 Kelvin (53,540 degrees Fahrenheit), which is five times hotter than the surface of the sun​.

Thunder: The sound caused by the rapid expansion of air surrounding the lightning bolt.

Rain: Heavy rainfall is common and can lead to flash flooding.

Wind: Strong winds can cause widespread damage by knocking down trees, power lines, and structures.

Hail: Can damage vehicles, roofs, and windows.


Types of Dangers Associated with Electrical Storms

  1. Lightning Strikes:
    • Lightning strikes the earth about 8 million times per day. Each year, it kills an average of 49 people in the United States​.
    • Strikes can cause burns, cardiac arrest, and neurological damage. They can also ignite fires in homes and forests.
  2. High Winds:
    • Winds associated with thunderstorms can exceed 100 mph, causing extensive damage to buildings, vehicles, and trees.
    • Downbursts, a type of wind caused by a column of sinking air, can flatten entire neighborhoods.
  3. Flash Floods:
    • Flash floods occur when excessive rainfall causes a rapid rise in water levels. They are particularly dangerous because they can develop quickly and without warning.
    • Floodwaters can sweep away vehicles and individuals, and they often contain debris and contaminants.
  4. Hail:
    • Hailstones can vary in size, with some reaching up to the size of a softball.
    • Damage from hail includes broken windows, dented vehicles, and destroyed crops.

Understanding the dynamics and dangers of electrical storms is crucial for safety and preparedness. 

By recognizing the signs and characteristics of these storms, you can take proactive measures to protect yourself, your family, and your property. 


Preparation Before an Electrical Storm

Preparing for an electrical storm is essential to ensure the safety of your family and property. 

By taking proactive measures, you can minimize risks and damage. 

Here are key steps to follow before an electrical storm strikes.


Identify Safe Shelters

Finding and knowing your safe shelters can make all the difference during an electrical storm. Here’s what you need to do:

Sturdy Buildings

Always seek shelter in a sturdy building with walls, a roof, and a solid foundation. 

The safest place is typically a basement or a small, interior, windowless room on the lowest level of the building.

Avoid Mobile and Temporary Structures

Mobile homes, trailers, and temporary structures are not safe during high winds and lightning. 

Identify a nearby sturdy building where you can take shelter if needed.

Shelter Plans

Have a plan in place for everyone in your household. 

Conduct practice drills to ensure everyone knows where to go and what to do during a storm.


Emergency Alerts and Communication

Staying informed is critical during severe weather events. 

Here’s how to ensure you receive timely alerts and maintain communication:

  • Sign Up for Alerts: Register for local emergency alerts. Many communities have systems in place to send notifications via text, email, or phone calls.
  • Monitor Weather Forecasts: Regularly check weather updates from reliable sources such as local news stations or weather apps.
  • Backup Communication: Keep a battery-powered or hand-crank radio to receive updates in case of a power outage. Ensure your mobile devices are fully charged and have backup batteries available​.


Home Safety Measures

Taking steps to secure your home can prevent damage and reduce risks during an electrical storm:

Secure Outdoor Items: Bring in or tie down outdoor furniture, grills, and other loose items that could become projectiles in high winds.

Trim Trees and Maintain Gutters: Regularly trim trees to remove dead or weak branches that could fall and cause damage. Clean gutters and downspouts to prevent water buildup and flooding.

Surge Protectors and Lightning Rods: Install surge protectors to safeguard electronic devices from power surges caused by lightning. Consider installing a lightning rod system to direct strikes safely into the ground.

Practical Tips for Electrical Storm Preparedness

  1. Create an Emergency Kit: Your kit should include essentials such as water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, a first aid kit, and important medications. Don’t forget supplies for pets.
  2. Develop a Family Communication Plan: Make sure everyone knows how to contact each other and where to meet if separated. Include an out-of-town contact person who can relay messages.
  3. Review Insurance Policies: Check your home and renters’ insurance policies to ensure you have adequate coverage for storm-related damage. Consider additional coverage if you live in a high-risk area.


Electrical Storms.
Photo from iStock – Credit: tong su

During an Electrical Storm

When an electrical storm is imminent or already in progress, it’s crucial to take immediate and effective actions to protect yourself and your family. 

Here’s how to stay safe during an electrical storm.


Indoor Safety Tips

Once a storm begins, it’s important to stay inside and follow these safety tips:

  1. Stay Away from Windows and Doors: Lightning can strike through windows, so it’s important to keep a safe distance from them during a storm.
  2. Avoid Using Electrical Devices: Do not use corded phones, computers, or other electrical devices connected to outlets, as lightning can travel through electrical wiring.
  3. Avoid Plumbing: Refrain from using sinks, bathtubs, and other plumbing fixtures, as lightning can travel through plumbing and water lines.
  4. Unplug Electronics: To prevent damage from power surges, unplug sensitive electronics like computers, televisions, and kitchen appliances.
  5. Keep Pets and Family Members Safe: Ensure that everyone, including pets, stays indoors and away from potential hazards. Create a safe space where everyone can gather during the storm.


Outdoor Safety Tips

If you find yourself caught outside during an electrical storm, it’s critical to seek shelter immediately. Follow these tips to reduce your risk:

Seek Shelter Immediately

At the first sign of thunder or lightning, move quickly to a safe building or a metal-topped vehicle with the windows up.

Avoid High Ground and Isolated Trees

These areas are prone to lightning strikes. Instead, find a low area away from trees, metal objects, and water.

Stay Away from Water and Metal Objects

Bodies of water and metal objects (such as fences and poles) conduct electricity and increase the risk of being struck by lightning.

Crouch Low

If you cannot find shelter, crouch low with your feet together and minimize your contact with the ground. 

Do not lie flat on the ground, as this increases the surface area through which lightning can pass.


Vehicle Safety

If you are in a vehicle during a storm, follow these safety tips:

  • Stay Inside the Vehicle: Vehicles can offer good protection from lightning as long as you avoid touching metal surfaces.
  • Keep Windows Closed: Make sure all windows are rolled up to prevent rain and debris from entering.
  • Avoid Driving Through Flooded Roads: Just a few inches of moving water can sweep a vehicle away. Follow the rule, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”​.


After an Electrical Storm

Once the electrical storm has passed, it’s important to remain cautious and follow safety guidelines to ensure that you and your property remain safe. 

Here’s what you should do immediately after the storm.


Post-Storm Safety Measures

After the storm has passed, it’s important to continue taking safety precautions:

Check for Fallen Power Lines: Stay away from downed or hanging power lines and report them to the authorities immediately. 

Do not touch anything that may be in contact with a power line, such as metal fences or puddles of water.

Avoid Flooded Areas: Floodwaters can be contaminated with chemicals, sewage, and debris. 

Do not attempt to walk or drive through floodwaters, as even a few inches of moving water can be dangerous.

Inspect Your Home: Carefully inspect your home for damage. Look for broken windows, damaged roofs, and water leaks. 

If you suspect any electrical damage, do not attempt repairs yourself—contact a professional like Mister Sparky of Wilmington, NC.

Beware of Debris: Storms can leave a trail of debris. 

Be cautious of sharp objects and unstable structures. Wear sturdy shoes and gloves while cleaning up.


Electrical Safety Post-Storm

Electrical hazards are a significant concern after a storm. Here’s how to manage them:

Avoid Wet Electrical Equipment

If electrical appliances or outlets have been exposed to water, do not use them until they have been inspected and cleared by a professional.

Check the Circuit Breaker

If you experience power outages, check your circuit breaker for any tripped switches. 

If you notice any signs of damage, do not attempt to fix it yourself.

Professional Inspection

Schedule a professional inspection to ensure your electrical system is safe. 

Mister Sparky of Wilmington, NC can provide thorough inspections and repairs to prevent potential hazards.


Dealing with Insurance

If your property has suffered damage, it’s important to document everything for insurance purposes:

Document Damage: Take photos and make a list of all damaged items. This will be useful when filing an insurance claim.

Contact Your Insurance Company: Notify your insurance company as soon as possible to begin the claims process. Provide them with the documentation and any other required information.

Temporary Repairs: Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage, such as covering broken windows or tarping damaged roofs. Keep receipts for any materials purchased, as these may be reimbursed by your insurance​.


Special Considerations

For Families and Vulnerable Individuals

Different family members may require special attention during a storm:


  • Safety Plans: Ensure children understand your household’s safety plan and know the safe places to go during a storm. Practice drills can help them remember what to do.
  • Emotional Support: Storms can be frightening for children. Reassure them during and after the storm, and provide comfort items like favorite toys or blankets.
  • Activities: Keep children occupied with games or books to distract them from the storm outside.

Older Adults:

  • Mobility and Medical Needs: Ensure that older adults have access to any necessary mobility aids and that their medical needs are addressed. Keep extra supplies of medications and medical equipment.
  • Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency contacts readily available. Make sure older adults know how to reach help if needed.
  • Comfort and Safety: Provide a comfortable and safe environment, ensuring that they stay away from windows and exterior doors during the storm.

People with Disabilities:

  • Special Equipment: Ensure that any special equipment or devices needed for daily living are readily available and have backup power sources.
  • Personalized Safety Plans: Tailor safety plans to meet the specific needs of individuals with disabilities, including accessible routes and communication methods.
  • Support Networks: Engage with support networks, including caregivers and local disability services, to ensure continuous support during and after the storm.


Community and Resources

Local Community Preparedness

Community support can be crucial in the aftermath of a storm. 

Here are some ways to engage and prepare:

  • Community Alert Systems: Ensure you are signed up for local emergency alerts to stay informed about ongoing safety issues.
  • Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of local emergency contacts handy, including utility companies, medical services, and local government offices.
  • Support Networks: Engage with your neighbors and community groups to support each other during recovery. Share resources and information to help everyone stay safe.


Additional Resources

Downloadable Safety Checklists

American Red Cross:

  • The American Red Cross provides thorough checklists for various emergencies, including thunderstorms. These checklists cover everything from basic supplies to detailed steps for ensuring safety and preparedness.
  • Download here: American Red Cross Thunderstorm Safety Checklist

  •, a service of the Department of Homeland Security, offers comprehensive guides and checklists for disaster preparedness. Their resources are designed to help individuals and families prepare for a variety of emergencies, including electrical storms.
  • Download here: Thunderstorm & Lightning Safety Checklist

National Weather Service (NWS):

  • The NWS provides safety tips and checklists specifically for thunderstorms and lightning. Their resources include information on what to do before, during, and after a storm to ensure maximum safety.
  • Download here: NWS Lightning Safety Tips



Staying safe during electrical storms requires thorough preparation, vigilance during the storm, and careful post-storm actions. 

By understanding the nature of electrical storms and their associated risks, you can take proactive steps to protect your family and property. 

Always identify safe shelters, stay informed with emergency alerts, secure your home, and know what to do during and after the storm. 

Special attention should be given to vulnerable individuals and pets to ensure their safety.

Remember, Mister Sparky of Wilmington, NC is your trusted partner for professional electrical safety inspections and emergency services. 

Their expertise can help you prepare for and recover from electrical storms, ensuring your home remains safe and secure.



  1. What should I do if I’m caught outside during an electrical storm?

    If you are caught outside during an electrical storm, immediately seek shelter in a sturdy building or a metal-topped vehicle. Avoid high ground, isolated trees, and bodies of water. Crouch low with your feet together if no shelter is available.


  1. Can I use my electronic devices during a storm?

    No, it is safest to avoid using electronic devices that are plugged into electrical outlets during a storm. Lightning can cause power surges that may damage your devices or cause electrical shocks. Use battery-powered devices instead.


  1. How can I prepare my home for an electrical storm?

    To prepare your home for an electrical storm, secure outdoor items, trim trees, clean gutters, and install surge protectors and lightning rods. Make sure your emergency kit is ready and includes essentials like water, food, flashlights, and batteries.


  1. What should I include in an emergency kit for electrical storms?

    An emergency kit should include water, non-perishable food, flashlights, extra batteries, a first aid kit, medications, important documents, a battery-powered radio, and supplies for pets. Ensure the kit is easily accessible.


  1. Who should I call if my home’s electrical system is damaged during a storm?

    If your home’s electrical system is damaged, contact a qualified electrician for an inspection and repairs. Mister Sparky of Wilmington, NC offers professional services to address electrical issues and ensure your system is safe.