Lightning Safety Tips
Did you know that lightning is the third largest storm-related killer in the U.S., causing nearly one billion dollars in damage per year¹? Those are some sobering statistics you may want to keep in mind the next time you are trying to decide whether to play one more hole of golf or hike an extra mile when a potential storm may be brewing.
While summer is commonly known as the peak season for thunderstorms and lightning, such storms can strike any time and in almost any location year-round. The following guide and tips can help you and your loved ones stay safe and secure should you be caught in a lightning storm.
How Should I Protect Myself?
It is important to understand that there is no safe place outside during a lightning storm. If thunderstorms are expected, you should stop any outdoor activities quickly — even if you are still mowing the lawn or enjoying a picnic. Many lightning casualties occur because people fail to seek shelter soon enough. Keep an eye on local weather conditions and have a plan if thunderstorms are expected. Your home’s best protection against a lightning strike is a lightning protection system. In order to find out more you can contact a certified lightning protection specialist for information.
What if I am Outside During a Storm?
As soon as you hear thunder, stop all outdoor activities and get into a building or a hard-topped vehicle for safety. It may be tempting to get into a golf cart or a lean-to, but those will not provide adequate protection. If you absolutely cannot get to safety, try to stay away from open fields, hilltops, tall trees or other tall objects. Go to the lowest place possible, such as a ravine or valley, and squat in a baseball catcher’s position — with your heels touching, ears covered, and head between your knees. Minimize contact with the ground and do NOT lie flat. You should avoid water and anything metal, such as golf clubs or bicycles.
What if I am Driving?
Exit the road or highway you are on and park in a safe location. Stay in the vehicle and turn on emergency flashers until the storm subsides. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that can conduct electricity.
What if I am Indoors?
You may think that watching television or shopping on-line are good ways to pass the time during a storm, but your best bet is to unplug televisions, computers and any other high-value electronics well before the storm hits. Once the storm begins, do not touch any electrical equipment or cords, including corded phones. It is OK to use cellular or cordless phones during the storm. Be sure to stay away from windows and doors and do not go on porches. Also avoid taking baths or showers during storms.² Water is a conductor of electricity so if a lightning strike hits your house during a storm, it may travel through water and shock you in the bath or shower.
What if My House is Hit by Lightning?
If you think your home has been struck by lightning call 911 immediately and evacuate if you see fire or smoke. You may want to ask your local fire department to check for hot spots in your walls. If you use gas for heating and cooking, contact your gas company or a licensed contractor to conduct a leak test before re-entering your home. Gas system components have been known to sustain punctures as a result of direct or nearby lightning strikes.
¹ NOAA, http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/resources/Lightning_your_home.pdf
² NOAA's National Weather Service, http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/lightning/lightning_safety.htm