I have mentioned John Jensenius, a lightning expert at NOAA. He is a lightning expert and his mission is to educate people about the hazards of this natural killer. I credit John and his team with reducing the number of deaths each year. Like any education, it is a team effort. Lightning is fascinating to watch but also extremely dangerous. There are about 25 million lightning flashes every year in the US. Each is a potential killer. While lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. In addition, lightning injures many more people than it kills and leaves some victims with life-long health problems.
The best way to protect yourself from lightning is to avoid the threat. You simply don’t want to be caught outside in a storm. Have a lightning safety plan, and cancel or postpone activities early if thunderstorms are expected. Monitor weather conditions and get to a safe place before the weather becomes threatening. Your plan should include safe and unsafe places to go during a storm.
A safe building is one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls and floor, and has plumbing or wiring. Examples include a home, school, church, hotel, office building or shopping center. Once inside, stay away from showers, sinks, bath tubs, and electronic equipment such as stoves, radios, corded telephones and computers.
Unsafe buildings include car ports, open garages, covered patios, picnic shelters, beach pavilions, golf shelters, tents of any kinds, baseball dugouts, sheds and greenhouses.
A safe vehicle is any fully enclosed metal-topped vehicle such as a hard-topped car, minivan, bus, truck, etc. While inside a safe vehicle, do not use electronic devices such as radio communications during a thunderstorm. If you drive into a thunderstorm, slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area. Do not leave the vehicle during a thunderstorm.
Unsafe vehicles include golf carts, convertibles, motorcycles, or any open cab vehicle.
John told me about Ellen Bryan who is a partner in NOAA’s efforts to education us re lightning safety. Ellen is the current Miss Ohio and a Miss America hopeful. Here is a public service announcement that speaks to the dangers of lightning: http://www.weather.gov/os/lightning/multimedia/new-bryan/EllenBryan_Lightning_v1.wmv.
Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors. Thanks to NOAA for all they do to keep us all safe.