In the United States, lightning kills 300 people and injures 80 on average, each year. All thunderstorms produce lightning and all have the potential for danger. Those dangers can include tornadoes, strong winds, hail, wildfires and flash flooding, which is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm-related hazard.
Lightning's risk to individuals and property is increased because of its unpredictability, which emphasizes the importance of preparedness. It often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
What to Do Before a Thunderstorm
To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:
Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
"If thunder roars, go indoors" because no place outside is safe when lightning is in the area. We want everyone to stay indoors until 30 minutes have passed after they hear the last clap of thunder.
Summary of Lightning Safety Tips for Inside the Home
Avoid contact with corded phones
Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.
Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry.
Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
The following are guidelines for what you should do if a thunderstorm is likely in your area:
Postpone outdoor activities.
Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.
Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
Avoid the following:
Natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
Hilltops, open fields, the beach, or a boat on the water.
Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
Anything metal—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles.
What to Do During a Thunderstorm
If you are in a forest Seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees. In an open area Go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods. On open water Get to land and find shelter immediately. Anywhere you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike) Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact it the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground.
What to Do After a Thunderstorm
Call 9-1-1 for medical assistance as soon as possible.The following are things you should check when you attempt to give aid to a victim of lightning:
Breathing - if breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Heartbeat - if the heart has stopped, administer CPR.
Pulse - if the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Also be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing and eyesight.
All information above is from FEMA's website under disaster and emergency preparedness.
For more information and resources on Thunderstorm Preparedness, please visit the web sites below.
US Department of Homeland Security - FEMA
FEMA “Are you Ready?” Online Publication – An in-depth 204-page guide to emergency preparedness.
US National Weather Service - NOAA
NOAA Storm Prediction Center
American Red Cross
American Red Cross Thunderstorm Preparedness
American Red Cross Preparedness Checklists
Ready Gov - Thunderstorm Preparedness
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