Monday marks the beginning of a week-long lightning safety awareness campaign by the National Weather Service (NWS).
According to an article published by the BBC, approximately 24,000 people are killed by lightning each year. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are directly struck by lightning, as deaths may occur from fallen debris or house fires. However, lightning-related deaths and injuries tend to peak around the months of June and July, spurring the NWS to launch a safety awareness campaign.
Why are lightning-related deaths and injuries more common during the summer? The reason for the increased rate of injuries and deaths is due to the fact that more people are outside. When a person is outdoors during a thunderstorm, he or she is left open and exposed to lightning strikes. The NWS urges the public to remain indoors during storms while staying away from windows.
“The past several years there has been an increasing trend across the U.S. in lightning injuries and fatalities while people are taking part in outdoor activities, such as fishing, walking or sports events. Simply put – there is no safe place outside in a thunderstorm. You must take shelter in a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle to stay safe,” said meteorologist Chris Miller.
The Red Cross reports that anyone who can hear thunder is close enough to be struck by lighting. A good rule of thumb to follow is to stay indoors if you hear thunder. If you only see rain and do not hear thunder, you should be safe from lightning.
Lighting Safety Tips:
- The most important tip of all, stay indoors during lightning and thunderstorms.
- Whether it’s taking a bath, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, etc, avoid the use of water until the storm has passed.
- Do not attempt to seek shelter under a tree, as lighting may strike the tree, sending tiny bits and pieces of wood flying in all directions.
- Listen to a weather radio for up-to-the-minute news regarding the storm.
- When a storm approaches, unplug major home appliances and electronics.
- Keep a flashlight and/or candles nearby in the event of a power outage.
- Stay far away from pools, lakes, ponds, rivers, and other bodies of water during a thunderstorm.
While Lightning Safety Awareness Week will wrap up Saturday night, it’s important for individuals and families to follow the precautions listed above throughout the year. Granted, more lightning-related injuries and deaths occur during the summer, the truth is that anyone can fall victim to mother nature at any given time of the year.