The statistics are scary: Each year in the United States, an average of 55 people die from lightning strikes, and hundreds more are permanently injured.
To date in 2011, there have been five lightning-related deaths, including a 13-year-old boy who was killed while bailing hay in Pennsylvania.
But remembering just five words could mean the difference between life and death for you or the Scouts in your unit: “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.”
This is a good time for me to bring it to your attention because it’s Lightning Safety Week, the National Weather Service’s annual reminder about the dangers of lightning and how to minimize your risk.
Once you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. Follow these guidelines to minimize your risk. I wrote them with the help of Richard Bourlon, the BSA’s Health and Safety expert:
- Go indoors. The single most important step you can take in a thunderstorm is getting everyone in your unit inside a safe shelter. There’s no safe place outside in a thunderstorm. A tent does not count as a safe shelter.
- Find a vehicle. Your next best bet if a safe building isn’t nearby is to get into an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle.
- Get to a lower elevation. If you aren’t near a shelter, get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges, or peaks.
- Stay away from isolated or tall trees, bodies of water, or objects that conduct electricity (power lines, windmills, metal fences, etc.) if you aren’t near a shelter.
- Assist victims. People struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge and need immediate medical attention. Call 911, and begin CPR or the use of an AED immediately, if it’s needed.
- Train yourself. Prepare for lightning and other weather-related dangers by taking the BSA Weather Hazard training, available through MyScouting.
(Photo of the Columbia River by Flickr user Phatman)