How to Remain Safe in an Electrical Storm
You likely know most of the dangers of lightning. Although being struck by lightning is a relatively rare phenomenon, lightning does kill an average of 51 people in the U.S. each year. And many individuals who survive a strike will experience long-term, debilitating symptoms. In this post, we’ll provide a few helpful lightning safety tips that can prevent you from becoming the next victim of a strike.
Outdoor Lightning Safety Precautions
A sudden lightning-producing thunderstorm can occur while you’re on the golf course, at the beach or in the backyard. A summer storm during hot-weather conditions increases the danger of a lightning strike. Many people seek refuge under a tower, tree or covered walkway, thinking this will provide adequate protection against a lightning strike.
While taking steps to avoid a direct lightning strike is important, this may not remove the danger completely. More often, lightning will spread along the ground instead of going straight down, so even if you’re standing next to a tree or building, you could still absorb the impact of a strike. If you’re outdoors during a lightning event, the best course of action is to head indoors or seek shelter in an automobile, while avoiding anything that conducts electricity such as a metal structure, wire fence or electrical power lines. Other outdoor lightning safety precautions include:
- Move to a lower elevation: Liking is more likely to strike at higher elevations, so if you’re on a hill or rooftop, move to lower ground as quickly as possible.
- Stay away from water: Lightning spreads quickly when striking a large body of water, which will act as a conductor of electricity. If you’re fishing or swimming, move away from the water, and find a safe shelter from the rainfall that often accompanies thunder and lightning storms.
- Spread out: Lightning can travel from one person to another. If you’re in a group, attempt to maintain a distance of at least 50 feet between each person.
- Remove any item containing metal: If you’re wearing a backpack or other item that contains metal, remove it and place it at least 100 feet away from your sheltering spot.
- Assume a crouching position: You might find yourself in the open with no place to take shelter. If this happens, don’t lie flat on the ground, as this provides a larger target for lightning. Instead, assume a crouching position and tuck your head to your chest or between your knees.
Are You Safe from Lightning in a House?
While you’re not as likely to be struck by lightning while indoors, it does pose a variety of hazards to the structure and inhabitants:
- Fire: Lightning can cause a fire when it strikes a home made of wood or containing other flammable materials. It will generally strike the high point of a home such as a roof or attic and reach wiring or piping. Burning wires and attached electrical circuits often ignite a large housefire.
- Power surges: When lightning comes in contact with electrical wiring, it can create a power surge in the electrical system, which can damage any plugged-in appliances and electronic devices. It could possibly injure anyone who is using them as well.
- Shock waves: Lightning causes the shock waves that produce thunder, and these explosive waves can pose a danger to structures and people. If the lightning is close enough, they can damage plaster walls, shatter glass, fracture a home’s foundation and even create trenches in a yard.
How to Protect Yourself from Lightning Indoors
Even though indoor lightning strikes are rare, you should still take appropriate lightning precautions at home. While there is no single safest place in a house during a lightning storm, there are several steps you can take to lower your risk:
- Avoid bathing during a lightning storm: Applying the same logic that pertains to avoiding outdoor bodies of water, do not take a shower or bath when lightning is present. In general, it’s best not to use any plumbing-connected fixtures until the storm has passed.
- Unplug electronic devices/appliances: It’s likely not possible to protect every electronic device in your home against a lightning strike. A more practical approach is to unplug your most valuable electronic items such as computers and televisions. Also keep in mind that surge protectors will not provide adequate protection against a direct lightning strike.
- Don’t forget your pets: Although most household pets are built lower to the ground than people, outdoor pets may seek shelter in unsafe areas — if they have access to it all. The safest course of action is to bring your pets inside during a storm.
- Wait it out: Even if the storm appears to have passed, it’s still possible for a lightning strike to occur. Wait until at least 30 minutes after the last apparent storm activity before venturing outside.
What Should You Do After a Lightning Strike?
If you are with someone who is struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 as quickly as possible. Attempt to pull the victim to a safe area, and check to see if the individual is responsive. There is no residual electrical charge after a lightning shock, so you do not need to worry about the risks associated with touching the individual.
You may need to administer CPR, as a lightning strike can cause cardiac arrest. If lightning strikes your home, the biggest threat is fire, so move outdoors (the safest available spot may be inside a car that is far enough away from the property) and call the fire department immediately.
Contact Lippolis Electric for More Lightning Safety Tips
As a reputable electrical contractor that has been serving Westchester County with distinction for more than 30 years, Lippolis Electric is a valuable source of information regarding how to stay safe from lightning indoors. Contact us to learn more today!