A young woman is walking outside her college campus. Her phone had been sending alerts to her all day long about sudden showers. Glancing up at the cloudy sky, she thinks that there’s a chance she can make it to her apartment before the rain starts. It’s only a mile, after all. As she begins her uphill climb, the gray sky darkens to an almost black. Rumbling thunder can be heard in the distance. ‘I have time,’ she thinks. The woman crosses the busy intersection to the apartment complex…then the flashing starts. Lightning scatters across the sky, making the walkway white for a blink. Thunder shakes the woman to her bones as she bolts for her apartment. A scream comes from her lips as she notices the lightning is no longer staying in the clouds. Just as she reaches her building, the world flashes again and…she slips inside. “Should have stayed on campus…”
Personal Note: This week is Lightning Safety Awareness Week, which is rather appropriate if you’ve watched the weather stations of late. Everyone’s quality of life goes down when someone in their family or friend group gets hit by lightning. But why is this such a big thing? Is there really such a cause for concern that there’s a Safety Week for lightning?
According to the National Weather Service, lightning:
- strikes the ground 25 million times a year.
- hits over 200,000 people every year and 10% of that number are fatalities.
- causes discomfort / disabilities in those who are hit (sometimes for the rest of their lives).
- is the third weather-related killer in the U.S.
- can cause fires.
“What do I do if I’m trapped out in a thunderstorm?”
To avoid being hit:
- Look at the forecast and constantly be aware of any developing storms if you’re going to be outside.
- Have a nearby shelter: closed off building / hard topped car. Convertables and gazebos don’t offer a lot of protection.
- In an open field, crouch in a ball position. Do NOT lie down. If you’re in a group, separate from each other.
- Stay away from tall things in your environment, especially trees. More people have been struck by lightning because they took cover under a tree.
- Keep moving while staying low to the ground. If you have the ability to move towards shelter, do so.
- Don’t touch anything that can conduct electricity. This includes running water, cords, metal plumbing, and even concrete.
- Stay away from windows and doors, if you’re inside.
Most importantly, if you hear thunder, get inside. Even if the storm sounds far away, don’t take any chances. Lightning can strike 25 miles away from a stormfront.
Personal Note: One of my neighbors got hit while driving their lawnmower. They were trying to finish up before the rain started. Then ZAP! It was blue skies above them when the lightning struck.
“My friend has been hit! What do I do?”
The human body doesn’t conduct electricity, so after the initial strike, get your friend to safety. Warning: There’s a chance they’ll be naked or their clothes / hair might be on fire. When lightning strikes the skin, it can heat up and shred clothing and leave 3 degree burns.
Afterwards, check for signs of life. If you have CPR training, follow the normal procedure. Call 911 and tell dispatch what happened. They may have some steps you can take to help your friend.
If you’ve been struck, hope that someone nearby can help you. If you’re still conscious, do your best to call 911. Unfortunately, you’ll probably be unconscious for some time.