Flash! Clap! How to Keep Safe During Peak Lightning Season
“When lightning roars, go indoors.” That’s the catchy slogan the National Weather Service (NWS) uses to warn us about the dangers of those fascinating flashes of light. And since June 23 marks the start of Lightning Safety Week (summertime is peak season for thunder and lightning storms), it’s a good time to review tips that can make a difference the next time you spot dark, threatening clouds.
Avoid the Threat Outdoors
If you hear thunder, then you’re within striking distance of the storm, the NWS says. The best way to protect yourself when you’re outside? Avoid the threat. Refer to the above slogan, and head indoors.
A safe place to shelter, according to the NWS, is a house or other building substantial enough to have plumbing and electricity; that means avoiding smaller, outdoor buildings like picnic shelters or baseball dugouts. (If a shelter isn’t immediately available, a hard-topped metal car with the windows closed can also offer protection, the NWS says.)
Once inside, wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before venturing back out, the agency advises.
It’s also smart to take measures that ensure you’re not caught in a storm in the first place. Understanding the weather patterns of your location is a good place to begin. For instance, the NWS says that, in mountainous areas, thunderstorms typically develop in the afternoons; in that case, it would likely make sense to schedule a hike in the early-morning hours.
You should also plan to monitor actual weather conditions; a portable weather radio, a good weather app or a conventional AM/FM radio can offer critical alerts. If you do discover that a thunderstorm is heading your way, cancel or postpone outdoor activities early, the NWS says.
Keep Safe Indoors
Though the indoors offer the best protection against the threat of lightning, there are still some risks when you’re inside. A house is a safe place to ride out a storm, the NWS says, as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. Of course, that includes a number of off-limit items:
- Corded phones. (Cordless models and cellphones are OK, the NWS says.)
- Plumbing/water. Sinks, showers, baths, etc.
- Electrical equipment. TVs, computers, headphones, appliances, and other items.
- Metal fixtures. Windows, doors, pipes, metal radiators, etc.
As for some other safety measures to take indoors, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready.gov site suggests unplugging electronic equipment, securing outside doors and either shuttering windows or drawing curtains and lowering window blinds.
To be sure, lightning and thunderstorms can be unpredictable. But there are purposeful steps you can take to stay safer this summer and lessen your risk against this heightened seasonal threat.