Office Life

How to Stay Safe at Work During Severe Weather

Northern Illinois has seen some wacky weather lately. Sometimes it feels like April rather than the end of June! Even though it’s officially summer now, we are still getting a ton of thunderstorms, dangerous high-speed winds, and tornado warnings. So, I thought it would be a good idea to throw some reminders your way about safety tips before more bad weather strikes.

The obvious things are overlooked in severe weather, and you want to make sure you’re prepared during a serious thunderstorm or tornado! This is especially crucial while you’re at work, because there’s probably no basement and you may not have discussed a safety plan with your co-workers.

First and foremost, you need to know the difference between a Thunderstorm Watch and a Thunderstorm Warning. According to, those terms are defined as follows:

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property.

Important tips and products you need to know/have before a thunderstorm hits:

  • Emergency weather radio (this is one of the best items to keep on hand at the office).
  • Know where your office fire extinguisher is kept.
  • Know ahead of time where your office first aid kit is located (some great choices are here and here).
  • Keep flashlights handy (Mag lites are always excellent flashlight ideas).
  • Remember where the emergency exits are in case of fire.

Here’s what to do when a severe thunderstorm occurs while you are at work:

  • Ask if computers and equipment need to be unplugged.
  • Stay inside, and stay away from windows and any glass doors, skylights, etc.
  • Avoid talking on the phone (including cell phones!) if you can hear thunder, and take off headsets.
  • You can be injured by lightning inside the office too. Stay away from all electronics, appliances, and metal items like doors and window frames.

You also need to make sure you know the difference between a Tornado Watch and Warning. According to the Red Cross:

If a Tornado Watch is issued for your area, it means that a tornado is “possible.”

If a Tornado Warning is issued, it means that a tornado has actually been spotted, or is strongly indicated on radar, and it is time to go to a safe shelter immediately.

Also, urges you to be alert about what is happening outside. Here are some of the things that people describe in regard to a tornado experience:

  • A sickly greenish or greenish-black color to the sky.
  • If there is a watch or warning posted, then the fall of hail should be considered as a real danger sign. Hail can be common in some areas, however, and usually has no tornadic activity along with it.
  • A strange quiet that occurs within or shortly after the thunderstorm.
  • Clouds moving by very fast, especially in a rotating pattern or converging toward one area of the sky.
  • A sound like a waterfall or rushing air that turns into a roaring sound as it comes closer. The sound of a tornado has been likened to that of both railroad trains and jets.
  • Debris dropping from the sky.
  • An obvious “funnel-shaped” cloud that is rotating, or debris such as branches or leaves being pulled upwards, even if no funnel cloud is visible.

What to do if a tornado occurs when you’re at work:

  • Find out if your town has a tornado siren and make a note of what it sounds like.
  • In extreme situations, sit under a desk.
  • If there is no basement or emergency shelter at your place of work, go to the Northeast side of the building into a bathroom (with no windows) or a hallway. They will provide you with the most safety. You want to put as many walls as possible between you and the tornado.

Using these tips will help everyone stay safe during these summer months when storms are still very prevalent.