Recently, lightning strikes killed two people in Utah. Nationally, lightning strikes claim the lives of about 100 people each year, and even more are injured. You can take steps to lower your risks.
No matter what your activity, you need to keep an eye and ear to the sky when outside. Be alert for darkening skies, flashes of light and thunder. A sudden drop in temperature and increase in wind often signals an impending lightning storm.
Suggestions for avoiding lightnings strikes :
Know the flash-to-bang method of gauging how far away a storm is. Every five seconds between the flash of lighting and the sound of thunder equals one mile For example, when you see a flash, count in seconds, then whatever number you ended up with, divide it by five The answer is the number of miles from the lightning flash.
Remain in safe shelter or closed automobile. Current travels over the outside of cars if they are hit.
Get off mountain peaks before noon, and plan outdoor activities when storms are least frequent. Most lightning strikes happen between 2 and 6 p.m.
Avoid standing under an isolated tree; it is better to be in a forest of trees, and avoid high terrain and open fields. If caught in an open field, seek a low spot and crouch in a curled position with feet together. Lightning strikes usually hit the tallest object in an area.
Get out of lakes, rivers, and swimming. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Once on land, get at least 100 yards away from shore.
Stay away from metal objects like golf clubs, fences, and bicycles. Metal objects are preferred conductors of electricity.
Beware of danger at onset and end of a storm. Many lightning strikes occur before and after storm activity.
If you feel an electric charge, the hair on your head or body standing on end, or your skin tingling, a lightning strike is imminent. If a safe haven is not available and you are caught in an open field, immediately squat like a baseball catcher. Crouch down on the balls of your feet and bend forward so that your head is low but no other part of your body touches the ground. Keep your feet together to minimize body contact with the ground, which minimizes the risk of being hit.
Have you ever wondered where the most dangerous locations for being struck are? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) identified these locations for the years 1959-1994.
27% open herds and recreation areas (not golf)
14% under trees (not golf)
8% water-related (boating, fishing, swimming)
5% golf/golfer under trees
3% heavy equipment and machinery-related
7% radio transmitter and antenna-related.
If someone is hit
People hit by lightning do not carry electrical charge, and can be safety tended to. Any victim who appears dead can often be revived. Be sure to call the local emergency telephone number (usually 911) for help. If the person is not breathing, begin rescue breathing If a pulse is absent and you know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), start it immediately. Stay with the victim until help arrives.
The summer months of June, July, and August are the times when most lightning strikes occur. Now is a good time to prepare.
Alton Thygerson, professor of health sciences at Brigham Young University, is the National Safety Council's first aid and CPR author and technical consultant. For more information, the National Safety council First Aid Handbook by Thygerson is available in local bookstores.