The reminds residents that there is little they can do to reduce the risk of being struck by lightning if outside during a thunderstorm. The only completely safe action to take is to move inside a safe building or vehicle.
A safe building is one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls and floor, and has plumbing or wiring. Examples of safe buildings include a home, school, church, hotel, office building or shopping center. If lightning should directly strike a building with electricity and/or plumbing, the dangerous electrical current from the flash will typically travel through the wiring and/or plumbing, and then into the ground. This is why you should stay away from showers, sinks, hot tubs and electronic equipment such as TVs, radios, corded telephones and computers.
Unsafe buildings include carports, open garages, covered patios, picnic shelters, beach pavilions, golf shelters, tents of any kind, baseball dugouts, sheds and greenhouses.
A safe vehicle is any fully enclosed metal-topped vehicle such as a hard-topped car, minivan, bus, truck, etc. If you drive into a thunderstorm, slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area. Do not leave the vehicle during a thunderstorm.
Unsafe vehicles include convertibles, golf carts, riding mowers, open cab construction equipment and boats without cabins.
Lightning risk reduction outdoors
Most importantly, stay away from high points or anything that will act as a conductor. Tall or isolated trees, water, telephone poles or metal structures can all attract lightning strikes. Avoid open areas where you serve as the tallest object around.
Though safety guidelines previously suggested that those unable to take shelter indoors crouch down into in a depression or other low point in the ground, weather experts no longer recommend such a measure during severe weather.
“Instead, we just want people to get to a safe place before the situation becomes dangerous,” said John Jensenius, lightning safety specialist with the National Weather Service. “Unfortunately, people have used the crouch as an excuse to stay outside much longer than they should when thunderstorms are in the area.”
Those who are outside when lightning occurs should not seek shelter underneath an exposed rock ledge or in the entrance of a cave, as if the earth above is struck, the electricity may arc in order to reach the ground. Those traveling in a group when a thunderstorm hits should spread out as they take cover. Thirty to 50 feet between group members should ensure that someone will be available to administer CPR and first aid in the event of a strike.
Providing first aid after a lighting strike
In the event of a strike, it is important to be prepared for significant injuries of almost any type. If you see someone struck by lightning, it is imperative to check their heartbeat and breathing immediately. CPR has a phenomenal success rate among lightning victims. In cases of lighting injury, CPR can have success rates of up to 90 percent. As such, normal rules of triage do not apply. If you find someone without a pulse or respirations after a lightning strike, begin CPR immediately.
Lightning can be deadly and should be taken seriously. Having to take shelter from a storm during an outdoor activity can seem like an inconvenience—however, it is the difference between life and death. A good rule of thumb is to stay indoors until 30 minutes have passed after the last clasp of thunder or flash of lightning observed. Don’t be afraid to be the person who speaks up—the life you save may be your own!