Flashes and crashes… Lightning Safety Week tips

Posted on June 19, 2016 by admin

Lightning forks expand over the sky, flashing over black trees in a purple sky.

Lightning. It’s one of those weird phenomenons that some people are just simply fascinated by. You don’t have to be a meteorologist, or a storm chaser, to enjoy watching a good lightning storm. Just about everybody has heard “Don’t do _____, you’ll get struck by lightning!” So, what are the realities—and myths—about lightning safety? For Lightning Safety Week, let’s do some myth-busting! (Because, look, ACDC… Thunder doesn’t strike, and Live, lightning doesn’t crash!)
It turns out, at least most of what I’ve researched (that I thought would be myths!) were actually truths according to government websites on lightning safety, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute (and they should know, right?), as well as the National Weather Service and Environment Canada! (That was some pretty quick myth-busting, sorry to let you down.)
Have a lightning storm on the horizon? Here are some tips to stay safe:
  • Know your lightning safety! Plan in advance for what to do when lightning flashes [1], The National Lightning Safety Institute advises teaching this rhyme: ‘If you can see it, flee it. If you can hear it, clear it.’ [1] If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to be able to strike you. [2, 3]
  • Head indoors. Once you get there, avoid water, stay away from doors and windows. As lightning strikes to electrical lines or telephone poles may transmit shocks down lines, stay away from appliances, electronics like TVs, computers—these things should all be unplugged if possible—and do not use headsets. After the last flash of lightning, avoid these things for the next 30 minutes [1,2]. (Now, this knowledge is from the National Lightning Safety Institute, but even I noticed that they said both to unplug and not touch electrical equipment… That’s a thinker!) [1] The National Weather Service notes that anything that puts you in direct contact with electricity should not be touched—think corded phones and computers [2]. Environment Canada notes that battery operated appliances, including cordless phones may be used safely, but a loud noise may be heard if the phone line is struck by lightning [3].
    Plumbing, windows, doors, and concrete floors and walls should be avoided, and shelter in the centre of a building should be sought, if possible. [23]
  • Nowhere outdoors is safe when lightning is striking. [2] If you’re outdoors and can’t go inside, try to find shelter, even if that is a vehicle that is fully enclosed (not a convertible). Otherwise, try to crouch down as low as possible, keep your feet together, and cover your ears. Stay about fifteen feet away from other people to minimize chance of injury if someone is struck by lightning. If you do crouch down, avoid laying down completely, however, as you may need to retreat quickly if flash flooding occurs [3].
    Stay away from metal objects, including golf carts and clubs, garden implements, umbrellas, and fishing rods—items that increase your height pose extra risk to your safety—it is crucial to avoid being the highest “structure” in an area as lightning will hit these items first… [3]
    As before, the key is to stay low… but touch the ground as little as possible, as a lightning strike’s voltage can travel as much as 100 feet. [4] As when indoors, avoid activity for 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning toensure the storm has finished [1]
  • If someone is struck by lightning they do NOT carry an electrical charge. First aid can and should be administered immediately, and 911 should be called. [1] Provide information about your location as precisely as possible, and the condition of the person who was struck by lightning. [5] Assess the situation, noting that lightning may still be a danger to both yourself and the person struck. it is usually safe to move the victim to a safer area. Usually, damage sustained by lightning is similar to a heart attack, however, if a fall or other injury occurred, trauma or broken bones could also be present. It is still most important to move the person to a safer location if possible, as it is usually unlikely that bones are broken or a person has been paralyzed as a result. [5] Treat any bleeding or presumed broken bones with first aid as possible, but most importantly, assess for a heartbeat and that the victim is breathing. Begin artificial respiration or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as is needed, if you are trained. Try to keep the victim warm if possible, but above all, continue resuscitation efforts until first responders arrive. [5] (This is a good opportunity to go get your first aid/CPR training done—this is your reminder! Hopefully these tips are ones that you do not have to use ever, but now you are aware of what to do!
Remember, lightning is interesting to watch, but stay as far away as possible! Remember these tips, and stay safe the next time a storm hits!

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