Each year, more than 400 people are struck by lightning in the United States and the lightning strike that occurred earlier this week at a Henrico middle school soccer game brings this safety issue close to home. The Safety and Preparedness Fact Sheet, Weather Safety – Lightning, prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, recommends the following to be safe from lightning:
Avoid the lightning threat
Have a lightning safety plan. Know where you’ll go for safety and how much time it takes to get there. Make sure your plan allows enough time to reach safety.
Postpone activities. Before going outdoors, check the forecast for thunderstorms. Consider postponing activities to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
Monitor the weather. Look for signs of a developing thunderstorm such as darkening skies, flashes of lightning or increasing wind.
Get to a safe place. If you hear thunder, even a distant rumble, immediately move to a safe place. Fully enclosed buildings with wiring and plumbing provide the best protection. Sheds, picnic shelters, tents or covered porches do NOT protect from lightning. If a sturdy building is not nearby, get into a hard-topped metal vehicle and close all the windows. Stay inside until 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.
If you hear thunder, don’t use a corded phone except in an emergency. Cordless phones and cell phones are safe to use.
Keep away from electrical equipment and wiring.
Water pipes conduct electricity. Don’t take a bath or shower or use other plumbing during a storm.
If caught outside near a thunderstorm:
Avoid open areas. Don’t be the tallest object in the area.
Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or utility poles. Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an area.
Stay away from metal conductors such as wires or fences. Metal does not attract lightning, but lightning can travel long distances through it.
Lightning fast facts
- All thunderstorms produce lightning, and lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall.
- Many lightning deaths and injuries occur ahead of storms or after storms have seemingly passed.
- If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose an immediate threat.
- There are an estimated 25 mission cloud-to-ground lightning flashes in the United States each year. While the National Weather Service (NWS) issues severe thunderstorm watches and warnings for storms that produce damaging wind or hail, watches and warnings are NOT issued for lightning.
- Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge, are safe to touch, and need urgent medical attention. Call 911 and give first aid. Do not delay CPR if the person is unresponsive or not breathing. Use an Automatic External Defibrillator if one is available.
To learn more, visit the National Weather Service Lightening Safety website for educational materials, including games, coloring pages and other materials geared for kids.