Safety tips: Preparing yourself when lightning is near

Lightning lights up the night sky as strong storms move through central Indiana on July 13, 2015. (WISH Photo/Scott Hums)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — “When thunder roars, go indoors,” is a term meteorologists often use as a safety catch phrase to educate the public on the dangers of lightning. In the United States, lightning is the 3rd deadliest weather phenomenon. On average, 30 Americans die every year due to lightning strikes. On Tuesday, three men were injured near Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis, by a lightning strike while seeking shelter under a tree.

A common misconception about lightning is that it is categorized as a severe weather threat; meaning there will never be a watch or warning issued by the National Weather Service for lightning alone.  Lightning strikes can occur at any time of day, with any type of storm.  In fact, it doesn’t even have to rain to have lightning occur.  Thunder should always be the number one indicator to take shelter until the threat has passed.

If you can’t seek shelter indoors or in a vehicle, here are some safety tips to keep in mind while caught in a storm:

  • Avoid open fields, top of hills or ridge tops.
  • Stay away from tall trees.
  • While camping, set up in a valley or a ravine.  A tent offers no protection from lightning.
  • Stay away from water or wet items.  Stay away from metal.  While water and metal do not attract lightning, they are excellent conductors, and can allow electricity from lightning to travel quickly over long distances.
  • At an outdoor event, seek shelter, and wait 30 minutes until the last rumble of thunder to resume outdoor activities.

Some safety tips to keep in mind while indoors during a thunderstorm:

  • Stay off corded telephones.  Cell phones and cordless telephones are OK.
  • Don’t touch electrical equipment such as TV’s, computers or cords.
  • Avoid plumbing.  Don’t wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes.
  • Stay away from windows and doors that might have small leaks around the sides.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.
  • Protect your pets.  Dog houses are not a safe shelter from lightning.  Dogs that are chained are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes.

For more information on lighting safety, click here.

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