June 19th, 2006 05:12 EST
Reducing The Risk Of Being Struck By Lightning
Reducing the risk of being struck by lightning is the focus of national Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 18-24. Lightning is most common in the summer months, but can be a hazard throughout the year. And although most lightning victims are struck outdoors, lightning poses a threat to those indoors as well. (Click NOAA image for larger view of lightning safety poster. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)
"All thunderstorms produce potentially deadly and destructive lightning. Knowing lightning is in the forecast and being prepared to react to the first sound of thunder are the initial key safety steps," said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of the NOAA National Weather Service.
If you are outdoors and see darkening skies or hear thunder, seek a sturdy, enclosed shelter immediately, such as a building or hardtop automobile,. "Don't wait for rain to start falling to seek shelter from the storm—by then it could be too late," says John Jensenius, lightning expert with the NOAA National Weather Service. "Lightning causalities frequently occur before the rain begins and soon after the rain ends. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before returning outside."
If you are indoors during a thunderstorm, try not to use corded appliances and electronics, such as computers and phones, as well as plumbing. Electrical wiring and pipes can provide a path for lightning to enter an enclosed structure.
"Lightning is a cunning and powerful force of nature. It is important to realize there are no guaranteed safe shelters—rather only ways to reduce your chances of becoming a victim," adds Jensenius.
Last year in the United States, lightning was reported to have killed at least 48 people. On average, lightning is responsible for 66 fatalities annually. Additionally, hundreds of people are injured by lightning. "Lightning survivors are often left with debilitating health effects, such as permanent nerve damage or brain injury," says Mary Ann Cooper, professor at the University of Illinois's department of emergency medicine.
To stress the importance of lightning safety for people of all ages, the Lightning Safety Alliance created a cartoon character, Leon the Lightning Lion, who promotes the slogan "When thunder roars, go indoors!" created by a private group, Struckbylightning.org. Both organizations are among the NOAA partners providing public information about lightning safety. Leon is featured in a new children's coloring page that can be printed from NOAA's lightning safety Web site.
NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.
Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.
Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Lightning Safety
NOAA Lightning Portal
Chris Vaccaro, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 142