ARC Provides Safety Tips for Lightning Awareness Week

Safety Tips Can Help Area Families Prepare for Summer Storms

DUBOIS – During Lightning Safety Week, June 23-29, the American Red Cross wants to help educate people about the dangers associated with lightning, and what families should do to stay safe.

Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding, and high winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages. Thunderstorms and lightning occur more at this time of the year, but can happen year-around.

“The local Red Cross wants to ensure that area residents have the right tools and resources to be prepared for inclement weather this summer,” said Jason Bange, executive director of the local Red Cross. “Our organization strives to prepare residents to prevent or lessen the impact of an unexpected emergency.”

With dry conditions and red flag warnings in western parts of the country, lightning strikes pose an additional threat with the potential to ignite wildfires. In Colorado, which is currently facing devastating wildfires, lightning starts around half of the wildfires where gusty winds fan the flames, spreading the wildfire.

LIGHTNING SAFETY TIPS At any given time, nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring somewhere on earth. The Red Cross has important steps local families can follow to stay safe during a thunderstorm:

  • Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts.

Even if there isn’t a threat of tornadoes in the area, people can access emergency preparedness information and receive severe thunderstorm watch and warning alerts by downloading the American Red Cross Tornado App.

As a storm approaches, individuals should take shelter in a building. If someone is driving, he or she should pull off the roadway and park. People should stay in the car with the windows closed and turn on the emergency flashers. Also, it is important to avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside of the vehicle. When inside, individuals should:

  • Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  • Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job.
  • Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering into your home.

If someone is caught outside during a thunderstorm and cannot reach a safe building, he or she should avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.

If individuals are swimming, everyone should clear from the water at the first sound of thunder or first sight of lightning and move inside, if possible. The National Lightning Safety Institute recommends waiting 30 minutes after the last lightning sighting or sound of thunder before resuming activities.

LIGHTNING FIRST AID According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), lightning injures an average of 300 people and causes about 80 fatalities each year. People struck by lightning can suffer permanent injuries or long-term symptoms including memory loss, sleep disorders, chronic pain, numbness, dizziness, irritability, weakness, fatigue, depression and others.

If someone is struck by lightning, check for burns and other injuries. If the person has stopped breathing, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR. The Red Cross First Aid App can help people know how to respond to these life threatening circumstances. Download the app today.

For more information on what to do to stay safe during these dangerous storms, review Red Cross Thunderstorm and Lightning Safety Tips.

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