Safety is always more important than reporting! The essentials of any storm spotter report are safety first, then speed and accuracy. The Bureau does not authorize the taking of risks to your safety when performing any of your tasks. You need only report severe thunderstorm damage that you observe as a matter of course, and are under no obligation to alter your normal routine. Spotters are on no account to put themselves in a position of risk to their safety. Please note that the Bureau strongly disapproves of, and does not authorize, risky conduct such as the chasing of thunderstorms. Always bear in mind, and act in accordance with, all safety instructions provided to you.
Telephones and Lightning
If you are using a landline to phone through a report to the Bureau, wait until the thunderstorm has passed, as you can receive a deadly electric shock or deafening sound blast when using a landline during a thunderstorm. If an emergency occurs requiring the use of a landline during a thunderstorm, keep your call brief, don’t touch any metal, brick or concrete, and don’t stand barefoot on concrete or tiled floors. As long as you follow these procedures, it is safe to use a mobile or cordless phone indoors. However, a mobile or cordless phone should not be used outdoors during a thunderstorm, as holding any object with metallic components increases the risk of being struck by lightning.
Plan ahead for weather emergencies. Take the time now to choose the best shelter within your home or office. Maintain an emergency pack with a battery-powered torch and radio, tools for emergency repair, food supplies, first aid, blankets and extra clothing.
If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued the State Emergency Services advise that people should take the following actions:
- Move your car under cover or away from trees;
- Secure or put away loose items around your house, yard and balcony;
- Seek shelter, preferably indoors and never under trees;
- Stay indoors away from windows, and keep children and pets indoors as well;
- Unplug computers and appliances;
- Avoid using a landline phone during the thunderstorm;
- Don't walk, ride your bike or drive through flood water;
- Keep clear of fallen power lines;
- Beware of fallen trees or debris on the road;
- Keep clear of creeks and storm drains;
- If you are trapped by flash flooding, seek refuge in the highest available place and ring 000 if you need rescue;
- For emergency help in floods and thunderstorms, ring your local SES; and
- Listen to the radio for thunderstorm updates.
The information presented here is adapted from "The Storm Spotters Handbook" (Bureau of Meteorology, 2011) and a report by E J Bondarenko and Associates on "Use of Mobile and Cordless Phones During Thunderstorms" (2002).