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Lightning Safety Precautions

As we head into severe weather season, it is important to remember a few basic safety precautions, especially when it comes to dangers such as lightning. While flooding is the cause of the most natural disaster related fatalities in the US every year, lightning runs a close second.  With severe weather season beginning in a few weeks, and reaching its peak in July and August, the time is ripe for a severe weather refresher course, especially as it pertains to lightning.

There are a few simple steps, mostly common sense, that one can take to preserve life and limb during lightning storms:

Namely, stay alert. Pay attention to your radio when the weather reports or special bulletins come on, and learn to recognize the shapes of oncoming thunderstorms. This would be towering clouds in the shape of a cauliflower, dark skies, and distant rumbles of thunder accompanied by lightning flashes. Once you see lightning, take cover, it is not advisable to wait until there is a strike in your immediate vicinity.

Seek immediate shelter, such as a large, enclosed building. If you are in your car, stay there and keep the windows rolled up. Avoid structures that are flimsy such as small lean tos, sheds, or pavilions. Even while you are inside, stay a few feet away from any open windows, sinks, toilets, tubs, showers, electrical boxes, and appliances. Lightning can easily flow through these elements and strike a person.

Heed your parents’ advice by not taking showers or baths during lightning conditions, and avoid using regular telephones except in cases of emergency. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe to use.

If you are caught outside, and unable to reach a safe shelter, there are still some steps you can take to save your life. If you are in an open area, crouch down on the balls of your feet, keep your hands on your knees, and lower your head. Do not touch hands or knees to the ground and do not lie down.  You can also find a low spot away from trees, metal fences, pipes, or other tall/long objects.  If you are in the woods, look for an area where the trees are shorter, then crouch down away from the trunks.

If someone has been hit by lightning, it is urgent to obtain prompt medical attention. If more than one person is injured, assist those who are unconscious first, since they are at greatest risk for becoming a fatality. Many times, those struck by lightning may appear to be dead, not breathing and with no pulse. CPR may successfully revive the person, if it is administered quickly by someone who knows how.  There is no danger in helping a person who has been struck by lightning, since no electrical charge remains.

Those who are injured but conscious should be treated next. Some of the injuries common to lightning strikes include burns, wounds, and fractures.

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