By: Erie Insurance
Though disasters like hurricanes tend to get more attention, it’s important to know how to stay safe from lightning. That’s because lightning presents serious dangers to both people and property.
Lightning safety for people
Lightning can strike any time during the year. The summer months, though, is when the most lightning casualties occur. This could be because more people are outside during the summer, but this could also be because the month of July generally has more lightning than any other month. Lightning also strikes more frequently in the afternoon. Two-thirds of all people struck by lightning are struck between the hours of noon and 6 p.m. Here’s some other “striking” facts:
- 85 percent of lightning casualties are male, making men five times more likely to be hit by lightning than women.
- 41 percent of all lightning casualties are people aged 15 to 34.
- 32 percent of lightning injuries happen indoors.
Lightning safety for property
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments responded to an average of 22,600 fires annually between the years 2007 and 2011. During those years, these fires took nine lives and $451 million in direct property damage annually. 19 percent of these lightning fires were people’s homes. Nonresidential structures accounted for 7 percent, vehicles accounted for 1 percent, and the remaining 73 percent occurred in outdoor and unclassified properties.
Here are some tips to avoid lightning right after you start hearing thunder:
- Postpone outdoor activities.
- Follow the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Go inside after seeing lighting strike within a 30-second interval, and then stay indoors for 30 minutes after you hear the final clap of thunder.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or even cause damage.
- Go inside a house, a building or an automobile that has a secure, hard roof (not a convertible). You can still get injured if lightning strikes your vehicle, but it is still much safer than staying outside.
- Just because you have rubber soles on your shoes or rubber tires does not grant you protection from lightning. The steel frame of a hard-topped car, though, does provide increased protection (if you are not touching metal).
- Shutter your windows and secure doors that lead to the outside. If you don’t have shutters, close your window blinds, shades, or curtains.
- Unplug all of your electronics before the storm arrives.
- Don’t shelter yourself under trees.
If you do not have access to any buildings or any vehicles, follow these actions to reduce the risk of being struck by lightning:
- Avoid open fields, and the top of a hill or a ridge top.
- Steer clear from tall objects like tall, isolated trees. If you are in a forest, stay near smaller trees.
- If you’re camping in an open area, move your camp to a valley, ravine or another low area. Unfortunately, tents do not offer any protection against lightning.
- Avoid water, wet items and metal objects. These are great conductors of electricity, and lightning strikes can span long distances.
- Most lightning injuries and deaths happen on smaller boats with no cabin. Bigger boats with cabins, especially ones with lightning protection systems, are relatively safe. Just make sure you stay within the cabin and away from metal surfaces. You should also not use the radio unless it’s an absolute emergency. If you do not have a cabin and you cannot get back to land, drop your anchor and get as low as you can. Check your forecast before you go out boating. If there are any thunderstorms coming your way, don’t go.
You can also take some precautions to avoid lightning indoors as well:
- Stay away from corded phones.
- Stay away from electronic equipment or cords. Unplug electronics before the storm comes; otherwise, it is dangerous!
- Avoid any contact with plumbing. Don’t wash your hands, take a shower/bath, wash dishes or do laundry. Remember, water is a conductor of electricity!
- Steer clear of windows, doors, and porches.
- Don’t lie or lean on concrete.
It’s crucial to prepare yourself when dealing with natural disasters or severe weather. One last tip to help prepare you is to make sure you’re covered if your vehicle or home sustains damage. To ensure you're covered, contact one of our professionals at Assure America. We have locations in: Weirton, Wellsburg and Chester in West Virginia; Steubenville, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.