Lightning can strike within 10 miles of a storm’s rain-shaft, even reaching out some distance from the anvil to strike in a clear blue sky. “If there’s no rain, people often stay outside,” says Ron Holle of the National Severe Storms laboratory, “and when the Storm clears, they head right back out. And that’s when many people get hit.”
Remember the 30/30 Rule: by the time the flash-to-bang count is down to 30 seconds, you should be in a safe location. Do not resume outdoor activity until 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard. If you are caught outside in the danger zone and cannot get to shelter, Brian Bennett, who devised safety guidelines for college athletics offers some advice. Crouch down near some small trees or shrubs with taller trees in the area. Minimize contact with the ground and stay low by crouching on the balls of your feet. Cover your ears with your hands and tuck your head down. Stay at least 15 feet from any other person.
Open shelters are never considered safe in any type of storm. Make sure that you get into an enclosed shelter, stay away from plumbing and electrical wiring, and do not use the phone. If you cannot get to an enclosed building, but have a car nearby with a hard top, get in and roll the windows up. However, you should not touch the sides of the car; it is the metal casing that protects you, not the rubber tires.
If you are inside your home when the storm arrives, avoid water and stay away from doors and windows. Do not use your telephone, and take off headsets. Remember to turn off, unplug, and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools and television sets. There is a possibility that lightning could strike exterior electric and phone lines, inducing shocks to inside equipment.
Suspend your activities for at least 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder. If someone has been injured by lightning, he does not carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely. Apply first-aid immediately if you are qualified to do so, and call 911 or send for help immediately.
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