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Lightning Safety Outdoors

I'm meteorologist John Jensenius with the National Weather Service. You can minimize your risk of being struck by lightning while outdoors. Many lighting deaths and injuries in the U.S. occur during the summer months in the afternoon when outdoor activity is at its peak. During the summer, people take advantage of the weather to enjoy a multitude of recreational activities. Being outside when thunderstorms are nearby involves risk, and certain locations are worse than others. To be safe, those who are boating, swimming, fishing, jogging, bicycling, hiking, walking camping or working outdoors all need to take the appropriate action in a timely manner when thunderstorms approach. While outdoors, minimize your risk of being struck by lightning by getting to a safe place before the threat of lightning becomes significant. Stay there until there threat ends. In general, the threat begins well before most people think it does and ends well after most people think it ends. Unfortunately, this lack of understanding accounts for many lightning casualties.

While no one can completely eliminate the risk of being struck by lightning, by using some basic safety rules, you can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a lightning victim. First, plan ahead. If thunderstorms are predicted, postpone or cancel outdoor activities so you can avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Second, monitor weather conditions. Watch the sky for any signs of developing or approaching storms and leave time to get to a safe place. Third, if the sky looks threatening or you hear thunder, immediately seek shelter inside a substantial building. Remain there for at least 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning is seen or the last thunder is heard. Some lightning victims have actually made the mistake of returning outside before the threat is over. And fourth, if you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you should try and minimize your risk of being struck. Stay away from tall objects such as trees and poles.

Stay away from things that conduct electricity such as metal bleachers or metal fences. Also, try to make yourself a small a target as possible and minimize your contact with the ground. If you or your children are involved in organized outdoor activities, make sure the officials in charge have and follow a specific lighting safety plan. Don't be afraid to ask. Coaches, umpires, or school and camp counselors need to know to stop activities early so there's a enough amount time to get participants and spectators to get to a safe place before the lightning threat becomes significant. If you can't get to a substantial building, a hard-topped metal vehicle is a good shelter. Be sure to roll up windows and make sure the occupants avoid contact with any metal inside the vehicle. Finally, don't forget the safety of your outside pets. Dog houses are not safe, and dogs that are on a metal chain or wire runner are particularly vulnerable to a nearby lightning strike. If you want more information on lightning safety, visit www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov

 

 


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