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What to do Before a Severe Thunderstorm

When severe weather is on the way, every minute counts. There are quick, last-minute steps you can takelike closing interior doors—to better protect your building from hail, strong winds, and even tornadoes. 

Begin Last-Minute Prep!

If severe weather is forecast for your area, follow these last-minute steps before the thunder rolls and the wind blows to help reduce damage to your business. Know the difference between a watch and a warning.

Checklist: Last-minute Prep & Recovery After Damage
Quick, last-minute actions you can take and steps to recover quickly.


1. Ensure 3 ways to receive weather alerts.

Severe weather can strike any time—day or night—so it’s important to have multiple ways to receive severe weather alerts even without power. 

  • Ensure you have a reliable source for severe weather information. Follow your local National Weather Service (NWS) office and the NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC) on Facebook or X. 
  • Ask staff to enable wireless emergency alerts on their cell phones. Check with your wireless service provider for device-specific information. 
  • Have your weather alert radio ready to go.  
1 - 3 Ways Warnings

2) Know the difference between a watch and a warning.

The National Weather Service issues severe weather watches and warnings ahead of severe storms. Pay attention to these alerts to know what actions to taken when.  

Refresh your knowledge of severe weather terminology: 

  • A WATCH means be prepared. 
  • A WARNING means take action now.  
Tornado warning - message on yellow road sign


3) Activate your severe weather business plan.

Now is the time to put your severe weather plan into action. By planning ahead, you know what to do. 

  • Be sure your severe weather shelter is clear and ready to use.  
  • Alert your team to activate the severe weather plan with communication and last-minute actions. 
Emergency Preparedness Checklist with pencil. Close-up.

4) Secure outdoor items.

Outdoor inventory, wood pallets, and patio seating could become flying debris and damage your building. 

  • Stay safe. If you can see lightning or hear thunder, go inside. 
  • Move outdoor inventory indoors or to a safe shelter. 
  • Move outdoor items such as patio seating, planters, inventory, and wood pallets indoors. 
  • For agricultural farms, move expensive machinery and tractors inside storage sheds. 
Outdoors restaraunt

5) Close all commercial doors.

Leaving commercial doors open during a severe thunderstorm makes your building more vulnerable to structural damage by inviting the wind inside where pressure can build up on the roof and walls.

  • Close rollup, garage, and overhead doors all the way.   
  • Initiate wind locks if available. 
An industrial warehouse with eight large yellow drive-in doors for big trucks.

6) Close all personnel doors and windows, including interior doors

Closing doors and windows keeps wind out of your building during a severe thunderstorm or tornado. If a window is broken, air rapidly fills your structure, causing a dangerous increase in the forces pushing on your roof. 

  • Close all exterior windows and doors to keep the wind and rain out.  
  • Close all interior doors to compartmentalize pressure from the wind if it gets inside your building.
6- Close personnel doors


7) Get everyone to the storm shelter or safe room to shelter right away.

When a tornado warning is issued, every second counts. Take shelter immediately to protect employees and customers. Because you’ve prepared and know where to go, you can seek shelter quickly. 

  • Take shelter now! Send employees and customers to the safe room to hunker down. This should be in an interior room with no windows on the lowest floor such as a stairwell or bathroom. 
7- Shelter- where to go

Annual Business Prep

These annual maintenance activities will help to prepare your business before severe weather strikes and reduce the potential for damage 

Building Upgrades

We can’t stop severe thunderstorms, but we can strengthen building components to better prepare for them. Upgrade now and be Thunderstorm Ready! 

Before Severe Event

If severe weather is forecast for your area, follow these last-minute steps before the thunder rolls and the wind blows to help reduce damage to your business.

After Severe Event

Once you are able to safely return to your building, note damage that must be repaired by a professional and tasks that can easily be completed as ado-it-yourself project.