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AMR’s lightning survival advice

The National Weather Service says you should be on the lookout for thunderstorms and lightning now until Sunday in Central Mississippi so the American Medical Response paramedics have provided tips on how to stay safe during thunderstorms and around lightning.

They said lightning is one of the deadliest phenomenons in the deep south and to go inside when you hear thunder to avoid being struck by lightning.

In a typical year, lightning kills more people in the US than tornadoes or hurricanes.  NWS has reported, on average, 73 people die in the US each year from lightning strikes.  By contrast, 63 Americans die annually in tornadoes and, in years without severe hurricanes, 16 die from hurricanes.

In addition to those killed by lightning, NWS says about 300 people in the US are struck each year but survive.  Survivors are sometimes left with lifelong disabilities such as intense pain, nerve damage and depression.

All five of the states with the most cloud-to-ground lightning strikes are in the Southeast.  Only Florida and Louisiana have more cloud-to-ground lightning strikes than Mississippi.

Lightning is unpredictable, so follow these survival tips from AMR:

  • Check weather forecasts frequently and watch for dark skies, large, towering clouds or shafts of rain in the distance. But remember, lightning can strike where rain isn’t falling and even when skies are blue.  Set your cell phone to receive weather alerts.
  • If you hear thunder, you’re in danger. Postpone outdoor activities.  Immediately move inside a fully-enclosed building with plumbing and electricity.  Sheds, picnic shelters, pavilions, tents or covered porches do NOT protect us from lightning.
  • If you’re boating or swimming, head to land immediately and go indoors. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity.  Sailboats and boats with tall antennae are more likely to be struck.  If you’re caught in a storm while in a boat, lie down flat.
  • Golfers, gardeners, bicyclists, people mowing the lawn or using farm machinery and others holding metal objects should cease contact with those items. Stay away from other electrical conductors such as metal fences and wires.
  • Once you’re indoors, stay away from windows and don’t use a corded phone or appliances that are plugged in. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe to use.  Don’t touch metal window frames or doors.  Don’t lean on concrete walls which may have metal in them.  Stay off wet surfaces and stay out of damp basements.  Don’t bathe, shower or touch faucets because water pipes can conduct electricity.
  • If you’re caught outside and there’s a hard-topped metal vehicle nearby, take shelter inside that vehicle. A convertible or golf cart provides no protection.  Roll up the windows, don’t use a cell phone that’s plugged into the car and avoid touching metal parts of the vehicle.
  • Stay in the building or vehicle for 30 minutes after the last thunder.
  • If you’re outdoors but no enclosed building or metal vehicle is nearby, do NOT take shelter under tall objects such as trees, utility poles and towers. Instead, move to the lowest nearby area.  Squat on the balls of your feet.
  • When there are others with you, spread them several yards apart. Yes, statistically, that increases the odds someone will be struck, but it also improves the chances at least one person will be able to help others who are struck.
  • The most common injury from lightning strike is interruption of the heartbeat. Other injuries can include burns, broken bones and damage to the nervous system.
  • After someone has suffered a lightning strike, approach him or her and start first aid. It’s safe to touch the victim.  The victim’s clothing or hair may be singed or smoking.  If so, stop the burning.
  • Immediately check to see if the victim has a pulse and is breathing. If pulse or breathing are absent, call 911 and start CPR.
  • Because lightning CAN strike the same place twice, move the victim indoors if possible.
  • Coaches and others in charge of outdoor gatherings should have a lightning safety plan – and stick to it.
  • Learn about commercial and personal lightning detectors (including their limitations) and consider buying one.

 

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