How to protect yourself when lightning strikes

These storm safety tips can help prevent serious electrical injury or death from lighting

lightning-over-house

We’ve all seen the movies.  Lightning strikes a tree in a sudden, terrible flash of light.  Our heroes narrowly miss being electrocuted.

The way most people are injured or even killed from lightning strikes doesn’t exactly match up with the Hollywood version of things.

Electrocution and electrical injury accidents often occur during a severe storm, when bad weather such as rain, snow and yes, lightning puts pressure on power lines and knocks them down.

The truth is, aging infrastructure and power lines that are not maintained and inspected kills far more people than we think.  Hollywood-version lightning strikes, no matter how terrible, kill and injure far less.

But what do you do when lightning strikes?

Since severe thunder storms tend to occur during the summer months, our attorneys would like to share some important lightning safety tips, so you can protect yourself and your family from power line electrical accidents.

Keep in mind that lightning from storms can create several types of fire hazards. It can electrocute on contact, split trees, bring down power lines and cause fires. Lightning can enter homes through three main routes: a direct strike, through wiring and/or pipes, and through the ground.

It sounds surreal, but lightning can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio/television systems or even through metal wires or bars in concrete walls and flooring. Lightning strikes to the ground may induce shocks elsewhere, including in a pool. Swimming pools have a larger surface area when you consider the piping, gas lines, electric and telephone wiring, within the property. Any appliances exposed to water, such as pool filters, can also short and become fire and shock hazards. I recently wrote about these hazards in my blog post, “How to prevent electrocution, electrical injury in the pool this summer.

9 summer storm safety tips

Please keep these safety tips in mind, when there are serious storms this summer:

  1. Dial 9-1-1 in case of an emergency.
  2. Follow the “30-30 rule”: When you see lightning, count the seconds until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, that generally means the thunderstorm is within six miles and is dangerous. Seek shelter immediately. The threat of lightning continues longer than most people think. So wait 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder before resuming your normal activities.
  3. If power lines come down: Dial 9-1-1 and stay far away from the downed lines. Always assume a power line is live.
  4. Stay inside: If a thunderstorm is approaching, get inside and stay there. Keep yourself away from windows, doors and porches.
  5. Protect your pets: Bring any outdoor pets inside.
  6. Don’t use landline phones unless it’s an emergency: Discontinue use of phones, especially cordless, unless it’s an emergency. Phone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the U.S. If possible, keep a hard-wired phone in an easily accessible place that can be plugged in when there’s an emergency.
  7. Avoid contact with electrical equipment and cords: If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, make sure to do it well before the storm arrives. If there’s a power failure, turning off all electrical appliances may avoid damage if a power surge should occur when lines are re-energized.
  8. Don’t run water and avoid contact with plumbing: Stay out of pools, hot tubs or other bodies of water like lakes. If lightning strikes your home, it may send current of electricity across metal pipes and electrify anything touching the water.
  9. Be prepared for a bad storm: Gather these items and store them in a place you can easily access in the dark: portable radio, flashlight, extra batteries, bottled water, snacks, a first-aid kit and blankets.

Severe weather aside, power lines and poles should be able to withstand the force of Mother Nature —  if they’re properly inspected and maintained by power companies.

 

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