Lightning Safety Guidelines

It is estimated that more than 300 people die annually from lightning strikes; hundreds more are injured. In fact, it has been established that lightning causes more fatalities and injuries than any storm related occurrence, with the exception of floods. These injuries are caused from the lack of an action plan, inappropriate or inadequate precautions, and a failure to consider this phenomenon a serious and potential danger to mankind. Many are unaware or fail to recognize the danger associated with lightning. We tend to scoff and laugh at the precautions our elders utilized at the onset of thunder. For example, everyone was required to come inside from the fields and take shelter, turn off and unplug every electrical appliance including the lights. Everyone was instructed to stay away from windows, and sit quietly on the floor while the Supreme Being was “doing His work.” No one was permitted to take a bath, wash dishes, or take a shower while it was lightning. The reality is, they were not “old fashioned” or really incorrect; some of these typically considered antiquated ideas are actually not that far fetched. Many lives were conceivably saved because of these precautions

It has been established that some simple precautions in the event of lightning could effectively save lives and prevent injuries according to the Lightning Safety Group (LSG), which was organized in 1998 in Phoenix, AZ. They developed some guidelines and precautions that will reduce the incidences of injury and death due to lightning strikes. Many consider the possibility of lightning actually striking earth an improbability; nothing is further from the truth. It has been reported that lightning strikes the earth thousands of times a year. Adults should make reasonable and responsible decisions concerning lightning safety, as they are ultimately responsible for themselves and children in their care during thunderstorms that are the predecessors of lightning strikes. A simple rule to remember is that if you hear thunder, lightning will follow.

Some lightning safety precautions and ideas include:
· Finding a safe location
· Developing a plan of action
· Following Safety Guidelines
· Devising a plan for evacuations
· Learning First Aid and CPR for a lightning strike emergency

In the event of lightning, it is critical to differentiate between a safe location and one that is not safe. For example, although no place is 100% safe during lightning, a large, well constructed enclosed building is preferable to being out of doors or in a small open space. The safety of the building is increased if the building is constructed in a manner that includes lightning protection such as lightning rods.

Additionally, the confines of a car, truck, van, or enclosed vehicle with the windows closed is relatively safe. However, do not touch the metal of the vehicle to avoid shock from lightning. If lightning strikes the car, the metal is essentially electrified and can cause a deadly electrical shock if the metal comes in contact with a human being or animal.

If caught outside during a thunderstorm, it is important to avoid high elevations, and avoid
· Open spaces or fields
· Trees that are standing alone or isolated
· Picnic areas or rain shelters
· Flagpoles, street light, telephone, or other light poles
· Electrical or communication towers
· Stadium bleachers both metal and wooden
· Metal objects including golf clubs and carts
Please avoid water including:
· Rivers, bathtubs, Jacuzzis, lakes, beaches, and swimming pools

. While enclosed cars with the windows rolled up are relatively safe, convertibles are not.

If inside during a thunderstorm it is important not to be near water, which is an electrical current conductor. Do not take a bath, shower, wash dishes, or use the telephone. Additionally, you should avoid contact with electrical or cable wires and metal plumbing, all are excellent electrical conductors. It is advisable to unplug computers unless a certified surge protector protects it. However, the best advice is to unplug these devices rather than take a chance.

If you hear thunder and can see lightning, you could already be in danger. Additionally, if thunder becomes louder and the claps of thunder are closer together, this is indicative that lightning is not far behind. Unequivocally, you should take precautions, especially if the time delay between hearing a clap of thunder and the lightning flash is less than 30 seconds apart. Please be apprised that storm conditions such as heavy rainfall, inclement winds, and a heavy or even intermittent cloud cover act as preliminary warning or predecessors to actual lightning strikes. It is a sagacious decision to take cover and initiate the necessary precautions to remain safe.

In the event of a serious thunderstorm with lightning, instruct loved ones on the use of an evacuation plan where the entire group meets in one spot. Also learn First Aid procedures to assist a lightning victim such as knowing to use a non-electrical conductor to neutralize the electrical live field before touching a victim. It is critical to learn basic CPR so that you can perform compressions and substitute breathing properly until emergency personnel arrive.

Many tend to regard lightning as fictional, similar to the depictions in cartoons where the clothing is charred or in tatters and smoke is rising from the scalp. Most consider it an impossibility that a lightning strike could ever happen to them. This is faulty reasoning and is based on wishful thinking. The reality of hit by lightning is similar to the voltage that was used in old electric chairs for corporal punishment; it can kill you. The voltage is so strong that it essentially short-circuits the body’s chemical electrical system. Typically the heart stops and unless emergency assistance or someone who is trained and proficient in CPR is available to assist, a fatality will occur. It may seem old-fashioned to turn off electrical appliances, even the computer and to stay away from water, solitary trees, and open spaces, but an old adage aptly elucidates the wisdom of taking serious precautions with lightning; “ it is better to be safe than sorry”.