...An Introduction to Lightning Safety...
This week is National Lightning Safety Awareness Week. Lightning kills--play it safe!
In the United States each year, there are about 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. While lightning can be fascinating to watch, it is extremely dangerous. During the last 30 years, lightning has killed an average of 55 people per year in the United States, while injuring 300 more. Bringing that down to the local level, Alabama had 110 reported lightning deaths between 1959 and 2011.
During a thunderstorm, each lightning flash is a potential killer. Lightning can even strike up to 10 miles from the main area of the thunderstorm. That is about the distance you can hear thunder from the storm. Whether or not you can see the actual lightning flash, if you can hear thunder, you are at risk of being struck. In addition to the visible flash of lightning, the current associated with the lightning discharge travels along the ground. Although some victims are struck directly by the stroke, many victims are struck as the current moves in and along the ground.
People need to become aware of what behavior puts them at the greatest risk of being struck by lightning and know what they can do to reduce that risk. Those in charge of outdoor activities and events should have and follow a specific lightning safety plan to minimize danger to participants and spectators. The greatest number of lightning deaths and injuries occurs during the summer months when both lightning and outdoor activities reach their peaks. During the summer, people take advantage of the warm weather to enjoy a multitude of outdoor ctivities. Unfortunately, those activities put them at greater risk of being struck. Even indoors, people must avoid activities that put them at risk. In particular, people should stay away from outside doors and windows and avoid contact with anything that conducts electricity.
Finally, in the event that a person is struck by lightning, immediate medical care may be necessary to save the person’s life. Cardiac arrest, burns, and nerve damage are common in cases where people have been struck by lightning. However, with proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most victims survive a lightning strike even though the long term effects on their lives as well as the lives of their families can be devastating. For more information about lightning safety, visit www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.