This is Lightning Safety Week in the United States. Here are a few tips on lightning safety from the National Weather Service Web site:
In the United States, there are an estimated 25 million lightning flashes each year. During the past 30 years, lightning killed an average of 62 people per year. This ties the average of 62 deaths per year caused by tornadoes. Yet because lightning usually claims only one or two victims at a time and does not cause mass destruction of property, it is underrated as a risk. While documented lightning injuries in the United States average about 300 per year, undocumented injuries likely much higher.
Watch for Developing Thunderstorms: Thunderstorms are most likely to develop on spring or summer days but can occur year round. As the sun heats the air, pockets of warmer air start to rise and cumulus clouds form. Continued heating can cause these clouds to grow vertically into towering cumulus clouds, often the first sign of a developing thunderstorm.
An Approaching Thunderstorm: When to Seek Safe Shelter: Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from area where it is raining. That’s about the distance you can hear thunder. If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance. Seek safe shelter immediately.
Outdoor Activities: Minimize the Risk of Being Struck: Most lightning deaths and injuries occur in the summer. Where organized outdoor sports activities take place, coaches, camp counselors and other adults must stop activities at the first roar of thunder to ensure everyone time to get a large building or enclosed vehicle. Leaders of outdoors events should have a written plan that all staff are aware of and enforce.
Indoor Activities: Things to Avoid: Inside building, stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity. Stay away from pools, indoor or outdoor, tubs, showers and other plumbing. Buy surge suppressors for key equipment. Install ground fault protectors on circuits near water or outdoors. When inside, wait 30 minutes after the last strike, before going out again.
Helping a Lightning Strike Victim: If a person is struck by lightning, call 911 and get medical care immediately. Cardiac arrest and irregularities, burns, and nerve damage are common in cases where people are struck by lightning. However, with proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most victims survive a lightning strike. You are in no danger helping a lightning victim. The charge will not affect you.
Summary: Lightning is dangerous. With common sense, you can greatly increase your safety and the safety of those you are with. At the first clap of thunder, go a large building or fully enclosed vehicle and wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder to back outside.
When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!