Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lightening Safety

Lightening, so beautiful, so dramatic and so deadly. Lightening is the #2 storm killer in the U.S. killing more people on the average than hurricanes and tornados. Only floods kill more people.
Lightening kills 90-100 people in the U.S. each year. Yet only about 10% of those struck by lightening are killed. Ninety %, or about 900-1,000 people, survive, but many of these suffer life-long severe injury and disability, primarily neurological.
Lightening also causes about $5 billion in economic loss each year.
Those statistics are alarming... Could we say electrifying? But like many safety hazards we face, increased alertness and a little preparation go a long way to preventing injury.
We won't go into basic education about what causes lightening, etc. But the picture on the right will take you to a website that contains such information. It is interesting.
But a few facts will help us understand the danger.

  • The most dangerous times for lightening injuries are before the rain hits and after the rain. This is because folks will be inside shelter while it is raining. However, lightening can strike out of the clear, blue sky. Scientists suggest that you seek shelter when you first hear thunder, and stay in the shelter for 30 minutes after it stops raining.
  • Scientists have discovered that although 80% of second lightening strikes are within 2-3 miles of the first strike in other states, they are as far as 6 miles in Oklahoma. Aren't we special?
  • When thunder and/or lightening are first noticed, you can use the Flash-to-Bang (FB) method to determine its' rough distance and speed. For each 5 seconds, lightening is 1 mile away.
  • Safe shelter is defined as a building or vehicle that is grounded. For buildings, the presence of electrical and plumbing systems provide the grounding. For vehicles, it is the metal shell.
Step #1: Be Aware! Awareness is half the battle.
If you are planning to be outdoors for an event, little league game, picnic, etc., check the weather reports and do a little pre-planning if the weather may be an issue.
Keep your eyes on the sky. Watch for a storm that is growing quickly, such as when a storm is becoming very dark at its base or is growing very tall. This is particularly important because that first flash of lightening is particularly dangerous simply because it is unexpected. And you know how quickly weather conditions can change in Oklahoma!
Step #2: Know your shelter! If you are going to be out-of-doors, be aware of your nearest, safe shelter.
Get to a building that has electrical wiring and plumbing. This does not include a baseball dugout, bleachers, rain shelter, or a picnic pavilion. A vehicle with a solid metal roof and metal sides is a reasonable second choice.
However, even in buildings and cars avoid touching metal or water.
Use the 30-30 rule:
When you see lightening, count the time until you hear thunder. If this time is 30 seconds or less, seek shelter. If you just hear thunder, go ahead and get to shelter just to be safe. Wait 30 minutes or more after you hear thunder before leaving shelter.
If you are caught outside, the general rule is to avoid projecting above the surrounding landscape. Get off the hilltop and seek out a dry ravine or valley.

  • Avoid water-related activities, including indoor pools.
  • Avoid tall isolated objects like trees, poles and light posts.
  • Avoid open fields.
  • Avoid golfing.
  • Avoid metal fences.
  • Avoid open vehicles like golf carts and lawnmowers even if they have roofs.
Step #3: Know What To Do!
If lightening is imminent, it will sometimes give a very few seconds of warning. Sometimes your hair will stand-up on end, or your skin will tingle, or light metal objects will vibrate, or you will hear a crackling or "kee-kee" sound.
If this happens and you're in a group, spread out so there are several body lengths between each person. If only one person is struck, the others will be able to give some critical first aid.
Use the Lightening Crouch Put your feet together, squat down, tuck in your head and cover your ears (minimizes hearing damage).
When the immediate threat of lightening has passed, continue heading to the safest spot possible.
Remember, this is a desperate last resort; you are much safer if you follow the previous steps and not get into this high-risk situation.
Step #4: Know Lightening First-Aid

Lightening victims are electrified. If you touch them, you'll be electrocuted.
It is perfectly safe to touch a lightening victim to give them first aid.
Lightening First-Aid People struck by lightening receive a severe electrical shock and may be burned. They may even appear to be dead.
Call 911. Give them your location and the number of victims; get help on the way.
The American Red Cross says that if a victim is not breathing, you should immediately begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, once every 5 seconds to adults and once every 3 seconds to infants and small children.
If both pulse and breathing are absent, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be started. This procedure should be administered by persons with proper training.
Victims who appear only stunned or otherwise unhurt may also need attention
  • Check for burns, especially at fingers and toes, and next to buckles and jewelry.
  • Give first aid for shock.
  • Do not let the victim walk around if it can be avoided.
The first tenet of emergency care is "make no more casualties". If you are still exposed and in a active thunderstorm, consider moving the victim and yourself to a safer location.
Like tornados, hurricanes and other natural disasters, we can't control lightening.
We can only control our responses when they threaten. Lightening is no different.
  • Be Aware!
  • Know Where Safe Shelter Is.
  • Know the Warning Signs That Lightening is Imminent & the "Lightening Crouch".
  • Know How to Care for Victims.

1 comment:

  1. My aunt was struck be lightening last year. She was fine afterwards (no serious injuries!), but I am definitely more cautious after that!