Did you know that lightning has been known to strike the U.S. as much as 20 million times per year? Lightning usually causes more deaths than tornadoes or hurricanes because of how common it is. Florida can produce numerous storms at numerous times. Data from the National Weather Service tells us that lightning strikes are fatal in approximately 10% of the strike victims. Approximately 70% of other survivors will suffer serious long-term effects. 84% of men will be struck by lightning and 16% of women will be struck. Always remember the outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a lightning storm. Thunder generally means that lightning isn’t far behind; even if the sky is blue. Lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles. If you feel your hair stand on end, you are in immediate danger of being struck. Unless you can instantly jump inside a shelter; drop to a crouching position, bending forward, and keeping your feet close together with your hands on your knees. The object is to be as low to the ground as possible, but with as little of your body surface touching the ground. We all like to keep things moving until we’re rained out. But when lightning is around, it’s safer to take shelter early. Very often an electrical storm occurs without rain or a lightning storm proceeding the rain. So if you’re working with a crane, on top of a steel framework, or around other projecting equipment, or a building; the safest thing to do is to seek shelter when you see lightning.
Here are some recommended guidelines from the Electrical Safety Foundation International and the Lightning Protection Institute: If outdoors, go inside. Look for shelter, and if possible, one that is equipped with a lightning protection system.
- Go to a low point. Lightning hits the tallest object. Get down if you are in an exposed area.
- Stay away from trees.
- Avoid metal. Don’t hold metal items, including digging bars, or other metal tools.
- If you feel a tingling sensation or your hair stands on end, lightning may be about to strike. Crouch down and cover your ears.
- Stay away from water. This includes pools, lakes, puddles, and anything damp; such as wet utility poles or grass.
- Don’t stand close to other people . . . spread out.
- When indoors, stay away from windows and doors.
- Do not use corded telephones except for emergencies.
- Unplug electronic equipment before the storm arrives and avoid contact with them during storms.
- Avoid contact with plumbing, including sinks, baths, and faucets.
Sitting in your truck and waiting for the storm to pass may sound like a good idea, but people have been injured when lightning struck their vehicle.
Did you know that most lightning victims can actually survive their encounter with lightning, especially if they receive prompt medical treatment? Individuals struck by lightning do not carry a charge and it is safe to touch them to give medical treatment (electrocutions are another story).
Follow these steps to try to save the life of a lightning victim:
- Call 911 to get help on the way.
- Make no more casualties! If the area where the victim is located is high risk, do not place yourself in unnecessary danger.
- Do not be afraid to move the victim rapidly if necessary – broken bones that would cause paralysis or major bleeding are not usually associated with lightning strikes unless the victim fell or was thrown a distance.
- If you have been trained in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if the victim is not breathing. (Give a few quick breaths prior to moving them, if necessary).
- Check for a pulse and begin cardiac compressions if no pulse is detected.