So it’s been a mixed bag of weather over the last few weeks from soaring temperatures (sometimes making the UK hotter than the Bahama’s) to raging thunderstorms to rival that of any found in the equatorial tropical regions or even America’s tornado alley.
We’ve spoken before about the effects the extreme heat can have upon us both at work and home but what about these dramatic storms we’ve been seeing. What should we do then?
There are some simple steps you can take to improve your safety during a lightning storm.
Find shelter immediately
If you find yourself caught in a lightning storm, the key to minimizing danger is to get inside a protective structure. While most people seek shelter, people commonly wait too long to seek shelter. If you can detect lightning, it may be close enough to strike you. Don’t wait for it to strike right next to you (or on top of you) to get to safety.
Never stand under a tall or short tree, and avoid being close to power lines as they’re both excellent conductors of electricity and could potentially cause death, if not serious injury. Find shelter near or under a stony shelter, say a cavern or something.
Stay away from windows
Keep windows closed, and try to stay within inner rooms of the structure. Windows provide a direct path for the lightning to travel.
Don’t touch anything metal or electrical
Using a land line phone is the main cause of lightning-related injuries in the US. Lightning can travel into the home from through any material that conducts electricity. This includes landlines, electrical wiring, and plumbing.
Stay inside at least 30 minutes after the last strike. Don’t go out if the rain starts letting up. There is still a significant risk of lightning strikes from a departing storm
Minimize your risk
If you absolutely cannot reach shelter during a lightning storm, do everything you can to minimize your risk.
Get out of the water
If you are fishing or swimming, get out of the water immediately, and move away from the body of water. Being near water is extremely dangerous during a lightning storm.
If you are caught in a lightning storm with a group of people, maintain a distance of at least 50-100 feet between each person. This will reduce the risk of lightning travelling from one person to another.
Remove your backpack
If you are hiking with a metal frame backpack, remove it as soon as you detect lightning. Make sure to leave it at least 100 feet from wherever you are taking shelter
Assume the “lightning crouch”
Squat down with your feet together, your head tucked to your chest or between your knees, and your hands covering your ears or flat against your knees. Do NOT lie flat on the ground, as this gives the lightning a larger target.
Be alert for an imminent lightning strike
If lightning is about to strike you or strike near you, your hair may stand on end, or you may feel a tingling in your skin. Light metal objects may vibrate, and you may hear a crackling sound or “kee kee” sound. If you detect any of these signals, assume the lightning crouch immediately.
Wear rubber boots
They are made of a material which is a bad electrical conductor.
The best way to avoid injury from a lightning storm is to avoid it completely. Make your plans with dangerous weather in mind. Listen to the local weather forecast, and pay special attention to thunderstorm advisories.
Watch the skies
When you’re out and about, watch the sky for signs of approaching thunderstorms, such as rain, darkening skies, or towering cumulonimbus clouds. If you can anticipate lightning before the first strike, you can avoid being caught in a bad situation.
Calculate the distance to the lightning
If conditions permit good visibility, and it’s not practical to seek shelter whenever you notice a strike, use the 30 second rule: if the time between a lightning flash and the resulting thunder is 30 seconds or less (aka 6 miles or less), get to shelter immediately
Plan your response
If you are in an area that you expect will see lightning storms, know where safe shelters are. Communicate your plans to your group so that everyone knows what to do in an emergency.
Prepare an emergency kit
Be ready with first aid and other disaster essentials. You may lose power during a thunderstorm, so have alternative light sources available
Install a lightning rod
If you live in a lightning-prone area, installing a lightning rod can help protect your family and your property
Have your lightning rod professionally installed. An incorrectly installed rod can increase the chance of a lightning strike
Lighting can be a mesmerising and awe inspiring phenomenon but it should be treated with respect and we should make plans to ensure our safety when these storms occur.