RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Planning an outdoor event can be a challenge; decisions on location, best picnic menu, or favorite water and pool toys can make or break the experience. However, so can a storm. As we enter the peak season for lightning, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is sponsoring Lightning Safety Week in an effort to educate and prevent lightning-related injuries.
THE DETAILS: Every year, about 400 people are struck by lightning in this country. Although just 10 percent die at the time of the strike—so far in 2010, 24 people have been killed by lightning in the U.S—survivors can suffer lifetime neurological disabilities. Scientists predict we’ll be seeing stronger, more intense storms in the coming years as a result of global warming, so it’s more important than ever to know what to do if you get stuck in a storm.
WHAT IT MEANS: In the summertime, the likelihood that we’ll be spending time outdoors combines with the increased frequency of storms to raise the risk of lightning-related injuries to its peak: More than 70 percent of lightning fatalities occur between June and August.
Here are some important strategies for staying safe in a storm:
• Seek shelter. The safest place to be when lightning strikes is indoors. “Look for a large permanent structure or fully enclosed metal vehicle,” says Richard Kithil Jr., founder and CEO of the National Lightning Safety Institute. Sheds, picnic shelters, tents, or covered porches won’t protect you. It takes a structure with a solid roof, as well as plumbing or wiring, which will direct the electricity into the ground in the event of a strike.
• Let your ears alert you. Even if you don’t see lightning in your immediate area, hearing thunder should be a cue to hightail it into a house or other safe structure. The sound of thunder means that lightning, while it may not be striking, is immediately close. In some cases, lightning can strike even if there are no visible clouds directly overhead. Teach your kids that good old National Weather Service saying, “When thunder roars, get indoors.” When inside, wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before going outside again.