Some tips on how to stay safe in a lightning storm

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CONCORD - Summer is the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena--lightning. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, and lightning strikes kill more people each year than do tornadoes. In the United States, an average of 53 people are killed each year by lightning, and hundreds more are severely injured.

As storms are likely to roll through our two-state region today, the Red Cross would like to offer the following tips to avoiding lightning strike related injuries.

What to do during a severe thunderstorm:

At home ...

  • Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. If lightning strikes, telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose. Metal pipes and plumbing can conduct electricity if struck by lightning.
  • Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job.

Outside ...

  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land, get off the beach, and find shelter immediately. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity.
  • Take shelter in substantial, permanent, enclosed structures, such as reinforced buildings. Avoid unprotected gazebos, rain or picnic shelters, golf carts, baseball dugouts and bleachers. If there are no reinforced buildings in sight, take shelter in a car.

If you are in the woods ...

  • Find an area protected by a low clump of trees. Never stand underneath a single large tree in the open.
  • As a last resort and if no structure is available, go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • Stay away from natural lightning rods, such as golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles and camping equipment. Lightning is attracted to metal and poles or rods.

In the car ...

  • Keep car windows closed.
  • Pull onto the shoulder of the road and stop, making sure you are away from any trees or other tall objects that could fall on the vehicle. Stay in the car and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside.
  • Avoid contact with metal or conducting surfaces outside or inside the vehicle. Lightning that strikes nearby can travel through wet ground to your car. The steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal. Rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. Avoid contact with potential conductors to reduce your chance of being shocked.
  • Avoid flooded roadways. Most flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to drive through water, or people playing in high water. The depth of water is not always obvious. The roadbed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.

After a thunderstorm

  • Continue listening to local radio or television stations or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance -- infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
  • Stay away from storm-damaged areas. You may be putting yourself at further risk from the residual effects of severe thunderstorms.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines and report them immediately. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury.

What to do if someone Is struck by lightning

  • Dial 9-1-1. Medical attention is needed as quickly as possible.
  • Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. To take a First Aid and/or CPR class call the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS.
  • Check for burns in two places. The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned, both where they were struck and where the electricity left their body. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing or eyesight.
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