With summer and severe weather season in full swing, it is important to keep safety in mind. This was vividly illustrated last week when a NASCAR fan was killed and several others injured from lightning strikes that occurred as they exited a race in Pocono. While lightning strikes are rare, they are almost always serious if not fatal. Fortunately, they can be avoided by following a few common sense safety tips.
For starters, when severe weather threatens, you should always seek shelter in what is described as a safe building, namely one with a roof, walls, and flooring, with plumbing and wiring. This may be a home, church or school. Do not use or spend time near sinks, showers, or tubs, and avoid using electrical items like telephones, TVs or radios.
Unsafe buildings would include open car ports, covered patios, beach pavilions, baseball dugouts, or sheds. These do not offer adequate protection from the elements, much less lightning strikes.
Safe vehicles are enclosed, metal topped vehicles such as a regular, car, minivan, or truck. Radios should be kept off and driving the vehicle kept to a minimum. Unsafe vehicles would include convertibles or golf carts, riding mowers, or any open cab vehicle.
Lightning can flash across the sky for many miles before striking the ground, having an effective strike radius well outside the area where the actual storm is located. In some cases, lightning may strike out of a clear blue sky, and scenarios like this have been the source of fatalities.
If you are caught out in the open during a lightning storm, seek the best possible shelter. If none is available, find the lowest ground area and get down as low as possible. It’s not an ideal situation, but it is infinitely better than getting barbequed by an errant lightning strike.
If you are caught out on the water, seek immediate safe harbor if at all possible. Boats with cabins provide a measure of protection, but are still not ideal. Stay off the radio unless it is an absolute emergency. Dropping anchor and getting as low in the boat as possible is the best hope for avoiding injury.