There’s no safe place outside in a lightning storm. Your best bet’s to get inside ASAP.
Of course, Scouting adventures take us deep into the outdoors, meaning sometimes there’s no “inside” to escape to.
In honor of Lightning Safety Awareness Week — June 22-28, 2014 — here are some ways to keep Scouts safe from deadly lightning strikes all year long.
First, know the BSA’s policy
The Boy Scouts of America has adopted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s recommendation that when “Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! The only completely safe action is to get inside a safe building or vehicle.”
Right when lightning-prone conditions start to develop, go ahead and get inside a building or safe vehicle if you can. Why risk it?
The BSA’s Guide to Safe Scouting has a section devoted to Lightning Risk Reduction.
There you’ll find steps for what to do if no shelter is available, including staying away from tall trees and spreading out.
Then, get trained
Don’t blow this training off, because it just may safe your life or the lives of your Scouts. The E-Learning Weather Hazards Course, available through MyScouting, is appropriate for youth of Boy Scout age and up and all adults.
“At least one member of any tour or activity should have the training,” says BSA Health and Safety guru Richard Bourlon.
Finally, let’s dispel some myths
I found these nine lightning-safety myths (and the truths that refute them) quite eye-opening:
Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit nearly 100 times a year.
Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.
Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don’t lean on doors during a thunderstorm.
Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch them, you’ll be electrocuted.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid. This is the most chilling of lightning Myths. Imagine if someone died because people were afraid to give CPR!
Myth: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.
Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties. Better to get wet than fried!
Myth: If you are in a house, you are 100% safe from lightning.
Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.
Myth: If thunderstorms threaten while you are outside playing a game, it is okay to finish it before seeking shelter.
Fact: Many lightning casualties occur because people do not seek shelter soon enough. No game is worth death or life-long injuries. Seek proper shelter immediately if you hear thunder. Adults are responsible for the safety of children.
Myth: Structures with metal, or metal on the body (jewelry, cell phones,Mp3 players, watches, etc), attract lightning.
Fact: Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference on where lightning strikes. Mountains are made of stone but get struck by lightning many times a year. When lightning threatens, take proper protective action immediately by seeking a safe shelter â€“ don’t waste time removing metal. While metal does not attract lightning, it does conduct it so stay away from metal fences, railing, bleachers, etc.
Myth: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.
Fact: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.
Source: NOAA’s Lightning Safety Page