More Important Reasons to Think Lightning Safety

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More Important Reasons to Think Lightning Safety

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Storms tend to be their most unpredictable during seasonal changes, particularly in areas that have extreme weather variations throughout the year.  These areas also tend to be where the most injuries and fatalities from lightning strikes occur.  Hundreds of people die and thousands get injured from lightning strikes each year.  Unfortunately, most could have been prevented by following some basic guidelines.  As the stormy season approaches, let’s take a few moments to think about lightning safety and how to minimize the chances of becoming a victim if caught in an unexpected storm.

Pay Attention to Forecasts

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The single, most important thing that we can all do is to stay abreast of the weather and prepare accordingly.  While this seems pretty basic, you’d be surprised at the number of people who get struck by lightning because they no idea that storms were in the forecast.  While forecasts can tell us when storms are expected, they don’t tell us about the unexpected ones, and these are the ones that can make us vulnerable.  So, it’s also important to keep an eye on the sky, and start working your way back indoors if storms are building nearby.

Get Inside

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Getting indoors is the most-effective way to avoid being struck by lightning.  While there are the occasional structure fires caused by a direct hit from a lightning bolt, and yes, people have been electrocuted while talking on the phone when a strike occurs, these instances are incredibly rare.  As soon as you hear thunder, get indoors whenever possible. 

It doesn’t matter if it is a cabin in the woods, a building or your home, being inside is your best bet to avoid getting struck.  If you are in the wilderness when a storm approaches, find some kind of cave or outcropping that you can duck into until it passes. 

Get Low

Lightning tends to make contact with the tallest object in the area that completes the electrical circuit from the cloud to the ground.  While things like trees, poles and towers are what normally attracts lightning bolts, people also make for excellent targets if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Being in a field, golf course, swimming pool, park or other exposed area is risk number one.  Risk number two is being the tallest object in the area as well. 

If you can’t get to shelter, and you’re stuck in an exposed area, look for low-lying trees, bushes, embankments or anything else that you can hide behind that’s shorter than other objects in the area.  While this won’t eliminate the risk of getting struck, getting low will reduce your level of exposure and hopefully cause a lightning bolt to seek a taller target. 

Stay Away from Water and Metal

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We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again as people keep putting themselves in precarious positions when storms strike.  Stay from metallic objects.  Don’t lean against metal-framed structures or metal equipment.  Stay away from flag poles or antennas.  Avoid hiding under large, tall trees. 

There was an unexpected storm around here last week, and it occurred on an unseasonably-warm day.  A lot of people were outside enjoying the weather, but when the storm struck, they scurried to all of the wrong places.  Aside from being near or in contact with the items described above, many people didn’t go back to their cars, which would have been the safest option.  Perhaps they didn’t want to get wet, or they thought they’d be more vulnerable by leaving the tree they were standing next or under the table with the umbrella.  In any case, a lightning strike did occur nearby, but fortunately no one was hit.  However, lightning is so random that any one of them could have been seriously injured or killed if the bolt hit where they were hiding. 

What other ideas can you come up with when it comes to staying as safe as possible when caught in an electrical storm?  This is something that we should all be thinking about, particularly as we approach the beginning of the storm season.  Remember that most injuries or deaths from lightning strikes are avoidable.  Take time to give yourself a brief refresher on lightning safety, and don’t forget to also remind your loved ones as well.