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NEWS | Aug. 14, 2012

Lightning safety

By 628th Air Base Wing Safety Office

As part of the continuing Critical Days of Summer Safety Campaign, we are again highlighting outdoor safety. This week we're targeting lightning strike risk reduction.

What is the correct thing to do when a lightning storm approaches? The best option is to go indoors. Go to a safe building - one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls and floor and has plumbing or wiring. Once inside, stay away from showers, sinks, bath tubs and electronic equipment.

The next best option, if a safe building is unavailable, is a safe vehicle - any fully enclosed metal-topped vehicle such as a hard-topped car, minivan, bus, truck, etc. While inside a safe vehicle, do not use electronic devices such as radio communications during a thunderstorm.

If you drive into a thunderstorm, slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area. Do not leave the vehicle during a thunderstorm.

However, there are times when neither a safe building nor vehicle is going to be an option, such as if you're in the middle of the lake fishing or hiking in the mountains. What do you do then? If you are caught in a thunderstorm on a small boat, drop anchor and get as low as possible. Large boats with cabins, especially those with properly installed lightning protection systems or metal marine vessels are relatively safe. Remember to stay inside the cabin and away from any metal surfaces.

If in the mountains, the following actions may reduce your risk of being struck by lightning:

- Avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top.
- Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
- If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers no protection from lightning.
- Stay away from water, wet items (such as ropes) and metal objects (such as fences and poles). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.

Lastly, if you're participating in an outdoor sporting event, get everyone into their vehicles or the restrooms. Do not stay in the dugouts; they are not safe during lightning activity. Once in a safe place, wait 30 minutes after hearing the last rumble of thunder before going back and resuming play.

One final reminder, if you're heading outdoors, listen to the weather forecast for the outdoor area you plan to visit. The forecast may be very different from the one near your home. If there is a high chance of thunderstorms, stay inside.

(Information was taken from the National Weather Service's web page, which can be viewed at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/outdoors.htm#near .)