Personal Security: Lightning Safety Tips
Recognizing a Lightning Storm Before it Strikes
- Pay attention to your local television weather forecast for lightning storm warnings. If you do not have access to a television, listen to the weather on a commercial or NOAA Weather Radio.
- Learn to identify lightning storms. These types of storms are characterized by increased winds and a sudden drop in temperature.
- Watch for the darkening of the sky, increased wind gusts, and the appearance of light flashes in the sky. These are all indicators that a lightning storm is approaching.
- Carefully listen for the sound of thunder. This is one of the best signs that lighting will strike somewhere nearby. If you hear thunder, go immediately to a safe location.
- Turn on a battery-powered AM radio. Static from lightning strikes can be heard on the radio even before you are able to hear the thunder or see the flashes of light.
Seek Shelter From Approaching Storms
- If you are outside in the open, go to a car or a building; whichever is closest to where you are. If seeking shelter in a vehicle, avoid any cars that do not have a solid roof. For example the bed of a truck or a car that is a convertible are not good choices for shelter.
- When inside a car, close all of the vehicle’s windows.
- If seeking shelter in a building, avoid any buildings, sheds or structures that are isolated, exposed or made of metal. For example, do not seek shelter in a metal shed.
- Avoid structures in areas that are prone to flood.
Indoor Safety During a Lightning Storm
- When inside a building, turn off and unplug any electrical devices and appliances to prevent a power surge that may destroy them. This includes your air conditioner if it is running, computers, televisions, microwaves, and even coffee pots.
- Do not attempt to use any corded telephone at this time as telephone lines conduct electricity. A cell phone is safe to use, provided it is not plugged into a charger.
- Keep clear of metal pipes that also conduct electricity. Radiators, fireplaces and stoves should also be avoided.
- Do not stand or sit near windows or doorways. For safety purposes, lower and close window shades or blinds. This will limit broken glass from flying into the room if the window is shattered during the storm.
- Stay within the center of the room when possible.
- Bathing in terms of showers or baths should be avoided during electrical storms. You should also stay away from sinks and toilets during the storm as lightning can travel through plumbing.
- Avoid leaning against walls, this is especially important if the walls are made of concrete.
If Outside Away From Home
- If camping or hiking when a storm approaches, go to lower elevations in the opposite direction of the approaching storm.
- Seek areas that have dense trees versus few or sparse trees.
- Choose shorter trees when seeking shelter. Never stay near the tallest tree or in a location that is near water.
- Remove and stay clear of metal objects or any other conductive materials.
- Your car is the safest place to be in the event of lightning storm. Go to your car if it is nearby and stay inside with the windows closed. If you are traveling and hit a lightning storm, stay inside of the vehicle.
- When in the water, it is important to seek shelter on land as quickly as possible and move 100 yards or further away from the shore. If land is too far away and you cannot safely reach it, lay down inside of the boat so that as much of your body is below the line of the boat as possible.
General Outdoor Safety During a Lightning Storm
- Do not stop, stand or run near fences, telephone or power lines, metal clotheslines or pipelines.
- If clothing is on a clothesline, leave them where they are until after the storm as passed. Do not attempt to remove.
- When participating in certain sports such as fishing or golfing, put down and move away from your clubs and rods. Additionally, if you are a golfer, take off your cleats which can act as lightning rods.
- Avoid seeking shelter in areas that are susceptible to flooding.
- When riding or using farming or lawn equipment, such as a tractor, turn it off and get off of it as quickly as possible. These types of objects are frequently struck by lightning and can increase your chances of being struck as well.
Make Your Body as Small as Possible
- Stay below any object that you are standing besides. This is because lightning will typically strike the tallest thing in order to hit the ground.
- Reduce how much your body comes into contact with the ground when making yourself smaller. Squat with both feet close together, preferably on a some form of insulation, such as robe or a foam pad if available. Your head should be as close to between your knees as possible and your hands should also be resting on them.
- Do not hold onto any tall object, metal or otherwise. Set tall objects at least 30 feet away.
- If with a group, space yourselves out.
Tending to a Lightning Strike Victim
- Immediately call 9-1-1 for help. The local Emergency Medical Services is another number to call for help.
- Touch the victim to check for a heartbeat and breathing. Although the person has been struck by lightning he will not hold a charge.
- Check to see if the victim is breathing. This should be done as quickly as possible. Ideally, if there is more than one person around the victim, one person can call for emergency help while the other checks the victim’s vital signs.
- If more than one person has been struck, check to see if anyone is unconscious and then treat that person first.
- Start rescue breathing procedures if the victim is not breathing on his or her own. Apply CPR if trained or ask if anyone has CPR training in the event that he victim’s heart has stopped beating.
- If the victim’s heart and breathing are stable, look for entry and exit burns from the lightning.
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