Indoor/Outdoor Safety Tips for Lightning Storms

Forests in Northern California, Oregon and Idaho are burning due to fires caused by over 900 lightning strikes.

This week Northern California firefighters are working hard to contain several fires caused by over 900 lightning strikes last weekend. Yes, you read that right—900. In fact, lightning strikes and fires caused by them occur most often in the summer months.

Why summer? You’d think more thunderstorms would happen in fall or winter, when the weather gets rainy and blustery. But apparently, thunderstorms need humidity–moisture and warm air, both of which can be plentiful in the U.S. during summer.

Don’t expect lightning to only happen when its raining—in fact, lightning usually strikes outside of heavy rain, and can strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall. And even though statistically speaking it’s literally a one-in-a-million chance that you’ll get hit, there are over 350 injuries reported each year from lightning strikes, and over 40 deaths. There’s a one in 10,000 chance you’ll get hit over your lifetime.

What should you to avoid danger and injury from lightning strikes? Here are some facts for you from the National Fire Protection Agency:

OUTDOOR SAFETY

  • Thunder is your biggest clue. If you can hear it, you are within striking distance of lightning. Avoid tall trees for shelter, and look instead for a home, large building or hard-topped vehicle right away. There is NO place outside that is safe during a thunderstorm! And before you leave your shelter, make sure you’ve waited 30 minutes after the last roll of thunder.
  • Keep away from windows and doors.
  • If you are in or on open water when you hear the thunder, head for land and look for shelter immediately.
  • How do you know when lightning is about to strike? The hair on your head will stand on end, and if this happens immediately squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet, placing your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. This will make you the smallest target you can, and also minimize your contact with the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground, and please note that this is a last resort when you cannot find shelter in a building or hard-topped vehicle.
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if you or another person is struck by lightning. Note that lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge, so you can attend to them immediately by checking their heartbeat, breathing, and pulse. CPR may be required.

INDOOR SAFETY

  • Unplug kitchen appliances, electronics, and other electrical items, like computers; turn off air conditioners. If you can’t unplug them, at least turn them off.
  • Do not touch or use corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that puts you in direct contact with electricity or plumbing.
  • Avoid water, which includes washing your hands, doing laundry or washing dishes.

You can’t stop lightning, nor a lightning strike causing a fire, but you can keep yourself and your family safe with these tips. Make sure you review them with your entire family, especially your children, in case you are not with them when a thunderstorm strikes.

Let’s hope that our fire season is short and without too many incidents—we haven’t had a lot of rain this year, and Orange County is very dry. Be careful when you’re outdoors, even if you are grilling or camping! And if your Orange County home or business is involved in a fire, please call us immediately after emergency services. We can restore your home just as it was before the incident.

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