Did you know that all thunderstorms produce lightning and lightning can strike as far as ten miles away from any rainfall? Many deaths from lightning occur ahead of the storm because people wait to the last minute before seeking shelter. According to the National Weather Service, the U.S. has averaged 51 lightning fatalities per year for the past 30 years. Only about 10% of people struck by lightning are actually killed. Most victims face varying degrees of discomfort and/or disability, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
If you are outdoors and see lightning, move indoors to a completely enclosed building or into a hard-topped vehicle and close the windows. Avoid being in or near high places and open fields, isolated trees, unprotected gazebos, car ports, pavilions, tents, shelters, baseball dugouts, flagpoles, light poles, metal or wood bleachers, metal fences, and water. Don’t hold on to metal items such as golf clubs, umbrellas or tools.
To determine how far a thunderstorm is from you, use the 30-30 Rule. When you see lightning, count the number of seconds that pass until you hear thunder. If you hear thunder within 30 seconds of seeing lightning, the storm is within six miles. Seek shelter immediately. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before leaving shelter.
If you are at home when a storm is expected, unplug major or unnecessary appliances such as televisions and air conditioners, as power surges can damage appliances beyond repair. Avoid using corded phones or any electrical appliances.
Lightning can enter your home as a direct strike, through wires or pipes that extend outside your home (i.e. water, gas pipes), or through the ground. Once it makes it into your home, the current generated by the lightning strike can travel through electrical lines, plumbing, phone lines, radio or television reception systems. Flexible gas line is more susceptible to lightning damage than iron pipe. Look, listen and smell for gas leaks and any evidence of a fire. If the fire is small (smoldering) and in a remote location such as the crawl space, basement, or attic, you may not be able to see flames but you can often smell or see smoke.
If you detect any unusual odors or see any smoke, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Take a few minutes this week to make sure your family members know what to do when they are outside or at home and hear thunder. Don’t wait for the rain to begin to take shelter. A comprehensive list of safety tips and other lightning resources are available at http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.
Guest Contributor & Article Credits: Fire Marshal Alan Perkins, CFPS (Live Safe Foundation, Liaison to the Fire Department Community) – Alan’s career in the fire service spans more than 30 years. He is a Certified Fire Protection Specialist through the National Fire Protection Association and a member of numerous similar safety organizations. Alan consults with numerous fire departments throughout Ohio and in 2005 was chosen by the Ohio Department of Health as the fire service member on the Ohio School Inspection Advisory Committee. He was also awarded Ohio Fire Official of the Year in 2009 by the Ohio Building Officials Association. Alan is the Fire Marshal for the Washington Township Fire Department in Dublin, Ohio. The Washington Township Fire Department provides fire prevention, fire suppression, emergency medical services, and education and safety programs for Washington Township, which encompasses parts of Franklin, Delaware and Union Counties.
Live Safe Foundation is an Ohio based non-profit organization (501c3), devoted to making and fire and life safety education, awareness initiatives and life saving tools available on a broad basis to communities, campuses, and institutions in an effort to reduce national fire fatalities and fire losses.