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Summer safety: Lightning facts and safety tips

Summer Safety: Lightning facts and safety tips

Each year, lightning causes dozens of deaths, thousands of fires, and billions of dollars in property damage.1 To help you stay safe, you need to learn as much as you can about lightning so you can take steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property against one of nature’s most dangerous phenomena. Most lightning deaths and injuries in the United States occur during the summer months, when lightning strikes are more frequent and outdoor activities are at their peak2, so when enjoying outdoor activities it’s important to pay attention to the weather and take appropriate actions in a timely manner when thunderstorms approach. Did you know that:

• When it comes to lightning, rubber shoes do nothing to protect you?

• In the home, talking on a wired landline telephone is the leading cause of lightning injuries? Cordless phones are safe to use.

• You should not seek shelter in a lightning storm under a tall tree? That’s one of the most dangerous places to be.

Flash facts

Here are some facts about lightning excerpted from National Geographic News, Flash Facts About Lightning3:

• Lightning is a giant discharge of electricity accompanied by a brilliant flash of light and a loud crack of thunder. The spark can reach over five miles, raise the temperature of the air by as much as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit and contain a hundred million electrical volts.

• The Fourth of July is historically one of the most deadly times of the year for lightning in the U.S. In summer, especially on a holiday, more people are on the beach, golf course, mountains, or ball fields. Outdoor chores such as lawn mowing or house painting are at their peak.

• If you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning — seek shelter.

• Use the 30-30 rule. When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If it’s 30 seconds or less, you are within six miles of the storm and should seek shelter immediately.

• Don’t be fooled by sunshine or blue sky! Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before leaving shelter.

• Swimming is particularly dangerous. Water conducts electricity and swimmers protrude from the water, offering a potential channel for electrical discharge.

• At home, avoid contact with anything that conducts electricity:

- Stay away from windows and doors

- Don’t use wired landline telephones

- Don’t lie on a concrete floor (it likely contains a wire mesh)

- Avoid contact with concrete walls (they may contain metal reinforcing bars)

- Avoid washers and dryers

- Unplug electronic equipment

- Don’t wash dishes or your hands

- Don’t shower, bathe or do laundry

• Always avoid being the highest object or taking shelter near or under the highest object, including tall trees and umbrellas. Lightning is “lazy,” and usually takes the shortest path to earth, striking the tallest object. Don’t let that be you.

• If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 immediately. Lightning often causes cardiac arrest. Check for respiration and a heartbeat. If the victim isn’t breathing and doesn’t have a heartbeat, immediately begin CPR if certified or if not, follow the 911 dispatcher’s and continue until emergency medical help arrives.

Flash fiction

Here are some misconceptions about lightning excerpted from National Geographic News,Flash Facts About Lightning3:

• Surge protectors offer protection against direct lightning strikes. False. They don’t! Unplug equipment such as computers and televisions.

• Don’t touch a lightning victim — you could get electrocuted. False. People who’ve been electrocuted don’t retain the charge and are not “electrified.” It’s safe to help them.

• Rubber shoes provide meaningful protection from lightning. False. They don’t.

• Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. False. It can — and often does. Tall buildings and monuments are frequently hit by lightning.

Plan ahead to stay safe

While your chances of being struck by lightning are rare, it does happen. Keeping these tips in mind can help to keep you safer during a lightning storm. Staying safe involves staying prepared, because the more you know the better you can plan for what’s ahead.

1Ronald L. Holle Annual rates of lightning fatalities by country.(PDF).International Lightning Detection Conference. 21–23 April 2008. Tucson, Arizona, USA. Retrieved on 2011-1108.



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