High Winds: How to Protect People During Outdoor Activities


Storms can spring up suddenly, surprising you with wind gusts of 60 miles an hour or more. If you supervise outdoor activities at a Christian school, camp, or ministry, it’s important to know what to do if you get caught outside in dangerously high winds.

At wind speeds of just 15-25 miles an hour, inflatable bouncy houses can pull loose from their stakes and blow away, hurting the people inside.1 That’s far below the threshold considered to be “high winds.” The National Weather Service will issue a high wind warning for your area if it expects steady winds above 40 mph or gusts greater than 58 mph.

Strong winds like these can cause downed trees and power lines, flying debris, and building collapses. People struck by wind-blown objects can be injured or killed. 

If winds are strong enough for weather officials to issue an advisory, consider postponing outdoor activities until conditions improve. Here’s some additional advice from the National Weather Service that can help you protect yourself and the people you supervise.

If you’re outside…

Conclude the activity and head indoors if high winds start to feel threatening. If you cannot go indoors, take cover next to a building or under a shelter. Avoid trees. Watch out for flying debris, such as tree limbs, which could cause injuries if they struck you or the people in your group.

If you see a downed power line…

Avoid touching anything that may be in contact with a downed line, such as tree branches or vehicles. Do not try to remove debris yourself. Instead, call police and the emergency line of your local utility provider. Warn others to stay away. Puddles and even wet or snow-covered ground can conduct electricity.

The same advice applies to someone who may have come into contact with a power line. If you see someone who has been shocked, do not try to touch them. You could get shocked, too. Get medical attention as quickly as possible by calling 911.  

If you’re driving…

Keep both hands on the wheel and slow down. Watch for objects blowing across the roadway and into your path. Keep a safe distance from cars in adjacent lanes, since strong gusts could push a car outside its lane of travel. Semi-tractor trailers and other high-profile vehicles face a higher risk of being pushed or flipped by high wind gusts. 

Take extra care if you’re driving a van or bus, or if you’re towing a trailer. In severe conditions, it may be safer to pull over to the shoulder of the road and stop driving until the wind subsides. Steer clear of trees or other tall objects that could fall onto your vehicle, like road signs. Stay in the car and turn on the hazard lights until it’s safe to resume driving. 

If a power line were to fall on your car, stay inside the vehicle. Take care not to touch the vehicle’s metal frame. Honk your horn, roll down your window, and warn anyone who approaches to avoid the danger. If you cannot do so yourself, ask someone to call police. Stay inside the vehicle until help arrives, unless it catches fire. To exit, open the door but do not step out. You want to avoid touching any metal portions of the car’s exterior. Jump to safe ground and get quickly away.  

For more severe weather safety advice, visit Brotherhood Mutual’s Safety Library. It contains hundreds of free articles, tips, and checklists that can help your Christian church, school, camp, or ministry.

Created December 19, 2019
1. Wallace, Kelly. 'Inflatables aren't baby sitters': How to keep kids safe in bounce houses. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2014/06/03/living/bounce-house-safety-parents/index.html
2. High Wind Safety Rules. The National Weather Service. https://www.weather.gov/mlb/seasonal_wind_rules