When we envision a lightning strike we often image the Hollywood movies and Disney Cartoons, where the main character always nearly misses being electrocuted and walks away with a fuzzy hairstyle much like Albert Einstein’s iconic firework hair.
Yet, in real life, the way individuals get injured or possibly even killed from lightning doesn’t always match up with the Hollywood and Disney versions.
Electrocution and electrical injuries often happen during severe storms, when bad weather such as rain and snow, and even lightning, add extra weight on power lines causing them to break.
The reality of it is, aging infrastructures and power lines are not always properly maintained and inspected and as a result, kills far more people than we may realize. The lighting strikes we see dramatized in movies, no matter how horrifying, kill and injure far less.
But what should you do when lightning does strike?
Before we know it, it will be summer again, during which, severe thunder storms are more likely to take place. As a result, I believe now is a good time to share some important lightning safety tips, so you can look after yourself and your family from power line electrical disaster.
Be aware that lightning from storms can cause several types of fire hazards. Lighting can electrocute on contact, tear trees down the middle, knock down power lines and originate fires.
Lightning can also enter your residence through three main routes: a direct strike, through wiring and/or pipes, and through the floor.
Believe it or not, lightning can pass through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio/television systems or even travel through metal wires or bars in concrete walls and flooring.
Lightning strikes to the ground may stimulate shocks elsewhere, including in a pool.
Swimming pools have a much bigger area when you take into account the piping, gas lines, electric, and telephone wiring surrounding the location. Any appliances exposed to water, such as pool filters, can also short and become fire and shock hazards.
These hazards were recently discussed in a particularly interesting article, “How to prevent electrocution, electrical injury in the pool this summer.”
A Short but Concise List of Summer Storm Safety Tips
When a serious storm is approaching, please keep these safety tips in mind:
- Call 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency.
- Keep in mind the “30-30 rule”: When you observe lightning, count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, that generally means the thunderstorm is within six miles and can be harmful. Look for shelter immediately. Lightning threats continue much longer than most individuals think. A good suggestion is to wait half an hour after the last observed lightning or thunder before returning to your normal activities.
- If power lines come down: Call 9-1-1 and stay a good distance away from the downed lines. Always presume a power line is live.
- Stay inside: If a thunderstorm is forthcoming, get indoors and stay there. Remain away from windows, doors and porches.
- Protect your pets: Bring outdoor pets inside.
- Don’t use phones unless it’s an emergency: Discontinue the use of all 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 telephone in an easy to reach location that can be plugged in when there’s an emergency.
- Avoid touching electrical equipment and cords: If you want to unplug any electronic equipment, make sure you do so well before the storm arrives. If there’s a power failure, turning off all electrical appliances may avoid damage if a power surge should happen when lines are re-energized.
- 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 a current of electricity across metal pipes and electrify anything that comes in contact with the water.
- Be prepared: Collect emergency items and store them in a place you can easily get to without light: flashlight, extra batteries, bottled water, snacks, a portable radio, first-aid kit and blankets.
We can never be over prepared when lightning strikes. Mother Nature is without a doubt more powerful than humans, but we can take several steps to prepare and maintain ourselves and our loved ones safe during a storm.