This year, National Lightning Safety Awareness Week falls during the week of June 18th through the 24th, and in the days leading up to that week, activists will be encouraging people to increase their awareness of the potential for damage that lightning always carries.
For sure, much more attention is traditionally given to hail, strong winds, and heavy downpours, but lightning has more power than any of these to cause severe damage. Each year, somewhere between 20 and 30 people are fatally struck by lightning, and hundreds more are injured to some extent. Unfortunately, lightning is also one of the least predictable of all weather conditions, and that means it’s virtually impossible to be completely protected against it.
However, there are some precautions that can be taken against being struck by lightning or being in some kind of shelter that might get struck. Seniors are especially vulnerable to lightning strikes, given the fact that they are generally less mobile and less able to get out of harm’s way when a storm strikes. All parts of this country are subject to thunderstorms, and every single thunderstorm has the potential to harm if conditions are favorable for the development of lightning strikes. That means it is your responsibility to safeguard yourself and your senior loved ones against the possibility of lightning strikes.
Where you should go
The best place to be during a thunderstorm is in a large building that is complete with plumbing and electrical wiring. Some examples of such structures include shopping malls, schools, private residences, and office buildings. If lightning should strike that specific building, the electricity will be conducted much more efficiently by the wiring or plumbing systems. That means a human body should be relatively safe because the person will be passed over in favor of the more efficient conductors. If it is not possible to take shelter in a building like this quickly, then sitting inside a vehicle like a car, van, or school bus is the next best thing.
Of course, once you’re safely inside your selected large building, you’ll need to completely avoid getting anywhere near the plumbing or electrical systems, since they are more likely to be struck. It’s always best to take shelter in one of the rooms away from the exterior, so find an interior room to shelter in for a while. If you were forced to adopt a vehicle to ride out the storm, make sure all windows are rolled up and that you don’t touch radios or the ignition system – anything that might be a favored path for lightning to take.
Things to avoid in a thunderstorm
Not all buildings are totally safe in a thunderstorm, and unsafe ones should be avoided at all costs. Unsafe buildings include those that have one side open, such as a shack, a lean-to, metal sheds, picnic shelters or pavilions, baseball dugouts, and carports. It’s also not at all safe to be standing or sitting on your porch, since this is a wide-open shelter that can easily be struck by lightning. Also keep in mind that you should avoid getting into a convertible vehicle, as these offer little or no protection against lightning strikes. Other kinds of unsafe vehicles that should be avoided include golf carts, construction equipment, and tractors.
Lightning is capable of traveling tremendous distances in a split second – much faster than you can react to a strike. For that reason, you should also avoid using electrical appliances and especially telephones that have physical cords attached. It’s perfectly safe to use your cell phone though, and you can also use a laptop or other computing device, as long as it’s not plugged into an electrical outlet.
You should also avoid taking baths or showers since water is an excellent conductor of electricity, and it’s entirely possible that you could be struck peripherally while a lightning bolt targets the water you’re using.
Staying safe with lightning
Your best bet for staying safe from lightning is to always be aware of the weather forecast several days in advance. When you know that a thunderstorm is possible, make sure to take all necessary precautions. Keep in mind that most people are struck by lightning, not during the height of the storm, but either before or after the storm has peaked. You should also be aware that lightning strikes can occur up to 10 miles away from the actual storm that gave birth to them. Any time that you can hear thunder, you should assume that lightning is in the area, and take shelter. As soon as you hear the first peal of thunder, you should find appropriate shelter, and stay there for half an hour after the last thunderclap you hear. If your hearing is somewhat impaired, you should look for the flashes in the sky that signify lightning is present. With a little bit of common sense and some good planning ahead of time, you and your senior loved ones can stay safe throughout any thunderstorm that comes your way.