How To Stay Safe When Lightning Strikes

Staying Safe When Lightning Strikes

Lighting is an often-overlooked, destructive natural hazard. It can cause grave damage to property and human life. Understanding the risks and how to prevent disaster and injury from lightning and thunderstorms is essential.

Understanding the Facts and Risks

Annually, cloud-to-ground lightning occurs 20 to 25 million times, over 300 people are struck, and 50 die on average from lightning strikes. In order to prevent exposure to lightning, important precautions must be taken.

Workers of jobs that involve exposure in open spaces are disproportionately at risk for lightning strikes. Workers in logging, roofing, construction, building maintenance, farming, lifeguarding, and landscaping are among those who experience increased vulnerability. Understanding the risk is the first step to greater safety.

Lightning is unpredictable. It can strike up to ten miles from rainfall. During thunderstorms, people should seek a safe place to wait until the risk is diminished. This means not going back outside too soon after a storm has passed.

Necessary Indoor and Outdoor Precautions

Employers and citizens should have action plans in case of lightning strikes. One should monitor National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and national weather service reports, and reschedule jobs in vulnerable areas to avoid being caught during a thunderstorm.

Even a distant rumble means you should seek protection. Above all, the rule should be, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.” You should at least follow the “30-30 rule”: after seeing lightning, count to thirty. If you hear thunder before thirty seconds is up, go indoors, and do not resume your outdoor activities for at least thirty minutes after the last thunderclap.

If caught outside during a thunderstorm, one should follow NOAA regulations. Lightning tends to strike the tallest objects in the area. Because of this, one must make sure they are not the tallest object in the area; one should crouch low, avoid water, wiring, plumbing, and fencing.

Seek Safe Shelter

For shelter, find fully-enclosed, substantial buildings with interior wiring and plumbing, which acts as an earth ground. Even so, lightning can travel through plumbing, thus you should avoid water. Unplug your wall outlets, and avoid electronic equipment of all kinds. Cordless and cellular phones are safe.

Additionally, you should avoid concrete floors and walls, windows and doors, and stay off porches.

Medical Assistance

If lightning strikes you or someone you know, the first thing to do is call 9-1-1 for medical assistance as soon as you possibly can. If you must give aid to a lightning strike victim, here are some signs you should check.

Breathing: Look to see if their chest is rising and falling. Listen over their mouth and nose for sound. Put your cheek next to their mouth for at least ten seconds to feel for breathing.

If the victim is not breathing, use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Heartbeat: Feel for their heartbeat on their chest or neck. If the heartbeat has stopped, perform CPR.

Other injuries: If the victim is breathing and has a pulse, look for other possible injuries resulting from the strike. Be on alert for broken bones, serious burns, lost of hearing or eyesight, and nervous system damage.

Safety Procedures Post-Storm

Even after a thunderstorm, there are risks that must be managed. Remember not to expose yourself to open air until at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to local radio and television stations for updated information and instructions. Never drive through a flooded roadway, and stay away from storm-damages areas.

Help those who need special assistance such as children or the elderly. Stay away from, and immediately report, downed animal lines. Keep your animals under your control and watch them at all times.

Learn More

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