Every year, hundreds of people are struck by lightning in this country. Light strikes can result in death and survivors can suffer lifetime neurological disabilities. Here are some important strategies for staying safe in a storm:
- Seek shelter. The safest place to be when lightning strikes is indoors. 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.
- Let your ears alert you. Hearing thunder should be a cue to hightail it into a house or other safe structure. It means lightning is close. Wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before going outside again.
- Know what to do if you get stuck. No place outside is safe during a storm. Avoid tall trees, water, metal objects, and high ground. Find low ground and stand in a crouch position if caught outside. If you’re with a group, spread out and don’t lie flat on the ground.
- Nix the iPod and cell phone. These could cause injuries even if you’re not directly struck by lightning. Side flash, a phenomenon where lightning strikes a nearby object, like a tree, and then jumps to a person, sometimes results in a flashover, in which the lightning is conducted over the skin rather an into the body. But you’re using an iPod or cell phone, both metallic objects, the current is more likely to internalize.
- Know how to help a victim. You can’t get electrocuted by helping a person struck by lightning. They don’t carry an electrical charge and are safe to touch. Call 911 and start administering CPR if the person is not breathing or is unresponsive. Use a defibrillator if one is available.