Home Lightning Safety Tips for Spring and Summer
If you hear thunder, get inside. Once you hear thunder, the storm is getting close. The thunder doesn't tell you the extent of the storm. That old trick of counting seconds between lightning and thunder is useful, but it doesn't tell you how wide a storm is. Just because lightning takes place in the distance, doesn't mean it can't take place where you're standing, too.
Concrete isn't surefire protection. Lightning is electricity. It travels through metal. Concrete is often reinforced with metal bars. It's a good idea to stay off concrete floors and walls.
Cars are safe if you don't have other shelter. Sometimes you get caught out unexpectedly. What you want is shelter with a foundation. A metal shelter may increase your risk of getting struck, not decrease it. If you don't have a substantial shelter nearby, your car is a good bet. Yes, it's made of metal, but its four big rubber tires insulate you from the lightning connecting to the ground.
Postpone a trip. You may have to change plans. A thunderstorm is no time to go for a hike or play frisbee, tennis, or golf. Wait until 30 minutes have passed since the last thunderclap before you go out. Driving is safe from lightning, but the trip to and from your car isn't, and you may risk tree limbs getting blown down. It's not the best time to be on the road.
Avoid baths and showers. Lightning can actually travel through water. One of the most dangerous places to be in a thunderstorm is in a bath. You can be electrocuted while bathing, so just hold off until the storm passes.
Don't use corded phones. Old-fashioned phones with cords are rarer than they once were, but many still use them regularly. It's a good idea to stay off them during a thunderstorm. Lightning can travel up those cords. Cordless phones and mobile devices that are unplugged are safe to use.
Careful with electronic equipment. You just canceled your plans! Now you can't watch your shows? Lightning can travel through electrical systems, damaging them and injuring you. While many may still choose to watch TV, it's often a good idea not to. It's also wise to unplug expensive computers or other electronic devices, as lightning can cause a surge that overloads and damages them. Storms are a good time to break out a book. As with phones, mobile devices that are unplugged are safe to use.
Make sure your children know what the thunderstorm rules are. Children should know that they have to get back inside during storms. It's one thing if you know what to do and they don't if your children are with you. It's another if you know what to do and they don't, and they're outside or with friends. Those minutes can be crucial, and if they know well enough to get inside when they see lightning or hear thunder, they can help protect themselves and the lives of their friends.
What if you're caught out hiking or camping? The best advice is to continue toward safe shelter and to speed up if you can. If you can't do that, find lower ground that isn't likely to flood. A gully or ditch is a good idea, but make sure you can escape it easily if it floods. Lightning seeks taller elements and materials that are conductive. Metal tent poles, walking/trekking poles, or fishing rods are very conductive. Even with rubberized bottoms, walking poles won't have enough insulation to protect against lightning. Leave any metal poles like this behind and come back for them later. Do NOT lie flat on the ground. This increases your body surface touching the ground and makes you more susceptible to ground current.
Call for medical help if a strike occurs. If you suspect someone has been struck by lightning, call for medical help immediately. Some survive a lightning strike, and others don't. A number of factors can impact this, and not all of them have to do with the victim's health. Take lightning safety seriously, and make sure everyone in your home has some knowledge about it and is on the same page.
Summer is a gorgeous time of year, and we all want to get out and enjoy it! Paying attention to the weather and taking proper precautions in the event of storms, however, is essential. Stay safe, everyone! Contact Own My Own Home for more information about affordable homeownership in the Asheville area.