Hazard: Severe Storms

What is a severe storm?

While we experience many types of thunderstorms in Australia, some more intense thunderstorms are referred to as severe thunderstorms. Severe thunderstorms can produce damaging wind gusts, large hail, tornadoes, and heavy rain which may cause flash flooding and these phenomena can all cause significant damage.
How is a severe thunderstorm defined?

Thunderstorms which produce any of the following are classified as severe in Australia:

  • large hail (2 cm in diameter or greater)
  • damaging wind gusts (90 km/h or greater)
  • tornadoes (cyclones)
  • heavy rainfall conducive to flash flooding

Most thunderstorms do not reach the level of intensity needed to produce these dangerous phenomena. The Bureau of Meteorology only issues severe thunderstorm warnings

Control Measure:

What can you do to prepare for severe storm season?

  • Be aware of severe storm patterns in your area (contact your local council for advice);
  • Trim trees, remove overhanging branches and clear gutters and downpipes, clear yard of loose materials and rubbish;
  • Secure loose roof tiles or sheets;
  • Protect sky lights with wire mesh and fit glass windows and doors with shutters or insect screens;
  • Prepare an emergency kit (emergency phone numbers, portable radio, torch, spare batteries, first aid kit, strong plastic bags for clothing, valuables, and plastic sheets, timber strips, hammers and nails for temporary repairs);
  • Check boats are securely moored, or protected on land; and
  • Check home insurance is current and adequate (Include building debris clean up/disposal costs).

What can you do when a severe storm approaches?

  • Listen to a local radio station for severe storm advice and warnings;
  • Shelter and secure animals;
  • Put loose garden furniture, toys etc inside;
  • Park vehicles under solid shelter or cover with firmly tied tarpaulins/blankets;
  • Secure all external doors and windows and draw curtains;
  • Keep valuables, medications, spare clothing in plastic bags and your emergency kit handy; and
  • Disconnect all electrical items, external TV/radio aerials and computer modems.

What can you do when a severe storm strikes?

  • Listen to your (portable) radio for severe storm updates;
  • Stay inside and shelter well clear of windows, doors and skylights;
  • If the building starts to break up, shelter in the strongest part (cellar, internal room, hallway or built-in wardrobe) under a mattress, doona or a strong table or bench;
  • If outdoors, seek solid enclosed shelter;
  • If driving, stop clear of trees, power lines and streams; and
  • Don’t use a fixed telephone during a severe storm due to lightning danger.

What can you do after a severe storm has hit?

  • Listen to your local radio station for official Advices and Warnings;
  • Check for structural property damage and cover with plastic sheeting and nailed on wood strips;
  • For emergency assistance refer to your emergency phone numbers or contact the SES or your local Council. If on your mobile phone and 000 is busy you can also try to call 112. (112 is a globally recognized emergency number and Australia’s secondary emergency number that can also be dialed from mobile phones in Australia, without a sim card)
  • Beware of fallen power lines and trees, damaged buildings and flooded watercourses; and
  • Don’t go sight-seeing
  • Stay in contact with your family
    If working during a severe storm warning, then stay in contact with your Area Manager so they can make the relevant decision to ensure you remain safe. If they are un-contactable, then follow your line of command and make contact with the relevant person in head office.
    You can also download smart apps onto your smart phone such as “Emergency+”. This app allows you to view all the emergency numbers and details relevant to the area you are in at the time you log in.