The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Lightning is an unpredictable killer

  • June 22 through June 28 is Lightning Safety Awareness Week with the National Weather Service, Illinois Emergency Management Agencies and local EMAs joining to warn the public about lightning danger.
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  • June 22 through June 28 is Lightning Safety Awareness Week with the National Weather Service, Illinois Emergency Management Agencies and local EMAs joining to warn the public about lightning danger.
    The phrase to remember is “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.” If the public has headed that message there has been a lot of indoor time this week with a storm rolling through the area Monday and multiple waves of thunderstorms Tuesday. Summer is the time of year to head the warnings. Not only are there many storms this time of year, but we are often outside having a good time hiking, boating, camping or at ball games, only to see dark clouds on the horizon. Here are five ways to stay safe when the thunder roars.
    1. Make outdoor plans around your weather radio forecast.
    “One of the biggest things to help out with lightning safety is having a weather radio and knowing what the forecast is,” Saline County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Allan C. Ninness said. “We should be making our plans accordingly. Is it a good time to go out hunting mushrooms when a storm is rolling in? Probably not.”
    Ninness recommends not only having a weather radio, but listening to its forecast each morning before leaving for work.
    2. People finding themselves in the great outdoors when a storm is rolling in should pay attention to their surroundings. Lightning typically strikes the highest point, so staying off of prominent points and away from the tallest tree is important. But lightning may strike less apparent landmarks, such as a chain link fence or utility poles at a ball park.
    “A lot of people worry about a tree, but if you’re by a chain link fence, that’s not a good place to be,” Ninness said.
    When boating, the person in the boat is the most prominent object in that part of the lake. Boaters should know the forecast beforehand and move to shore if they hear thunder.
    3. A person hiking deep in the Shawnee National Forest when a storm rolls in may have no choice but to hunker down and wait out the storm. When the lightning threat is imminent, people may feel the hair stand up on their arms. In this situation, making oneself low profile is critical, but laying down on the ground could expose the body and vital organs to lightning strikes to the surrounding ground.
    “We say to keep your feet close together and crouch with your head down and cover your head. You want to have a small footprint,” Ninness said.
    Sitting on a backpack or cooler will also help minimize injury from lightning strikes on the nearby ground.
    4. Being in the home is safer than being outside with lightning, but there are precautions to take inside as well. Electricity travels through wires and if the house is struck by lightning those on land line phones could become electrocuted. Likewise, lightning can travel through metal pipes and reach those in the shower or bathtub. Lightning may also travel through glass windows.
    Page 2 of 2 - “A lot of people stand close to window in a storm. That’s not a good idea. You definitely want to get away from windows,” Ninness said.
    5. If a person hears a thunderclap, that person is vulnerable to a lightning strike. Some people still rely on outdated lightning safety rules, but people are now urged to take shelter in a substantial building or hard-topped car as soon as they hear thunder and to remain there 30 minutes after the last thunderclap is heard.
    In the worst case scenario, people should not hesitate to help others after a lightning strike since victims do not carry an electrical charge. The surge of electricity through a lightning victim’s body causes cardiac arrest in most fatalities, so immediate medical attention is critical. If the victim doesn’t have a pulse and isn’t breathing, CPR should be administered immediately.
    Ninness invites people to visit the Saline County EMA page at salineco.illinois.gov/ema
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