Let’s talk a bit about lightning, this takes place during storms. Storms typify the rainy seasons, during this, a period we experience an enormous amount of rainfall with a minimal amount of sunshine in between. Lightning is one of nature’s deadliest phenomenon, it is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storms, clouds, and earth or within the clouds themselves.
Lightning is not only spectacular but dangerous, about 2,000 people are killed by lightning worldwide annually. Survivors of lightning strike suffer from a variety of symptoms, including memory loss, weakness, numbness, dizziness, and other life-threatening ailments. Lightning strikes can cause cardiac arrest and severe burns, but 9 out of every 10 victims survive. Other injuries commonly caused by lightning are temporary or permanent hearing/vision loss, nervous system damage, muscle, ligament or bone injuries (from violent electrically-induced contractions).
It is very important to be aware of lightning hazards, and when it is impossible to avoid the storm, it is paramount you know how to stay safe from it. In the event of a storm, you should move away from any upward pointing floors or staircase, and generally anything that can act as a strike point.
The danger of an impending lightning is heralded in this ways:
- Exposed area of the body feels a tickling sensation.
- Goose pimple on the skin and hair standing on end.
- Small and buzzing sounds emanating from metal objects.
- Static on an FM/AM radio during heavy rainfall.
- Audible thunder and visible flashes.
- Large towering clouds, raindrops or hails.
- Bluish flames around particularly-exposed metal objects like poles and pylons.
The key to lightning safety is simply avoiding being in the wrong place at the wrong time and avoid locations where lightning can strike. Essentially, this is anywhere outdoors or in unprotected structures. So, in other to ensure maximum safety during a lightning storm, the following are the best ways to protect yourself:
- The safest and most obvious place to be during a storm is indoors. If lightning strikes a house or a building directly, it will end up following the available parts to the ground, including the electrical wiring, plumbing, cable or telephone lines, antennas or steel framework. The fact that houses and buildings have an abundance of ground path makes them generally safe lightening shelters, but to ensure maximum safety during a storm:
- Do not use any wired appliances or devices.
- Stay away from water pipes and faucets (no baths, or showers)
- Avoid standing anywhere with water or excessive moisture. These areas are “ground current” danger zones.
- Stay away from walls where electrical wiring is present. Lightning will occasionally jump through the air inside a house or building to reach a better grounding part, such as electrical wire or water pipe.
Head for the Car
If no structural shelter is available, hard-topped automobiles provide sufficient lightning protection. Get inside the car, roll up the windows and do not touch any part of the metal frame (like resting your hand on the window) or any wired device in the vehicle (including the steering wheel or plugged in mobile device). A direct strike to your car will flow through the frame of the vehicle and usually go through the tires to the floor. Most lightning incidents to cars result in one or more flat tires and damage to the electrical system, but no injuries to the occupants. If lightning does hit your car, it is a good idea to stop and check the vehicle, it is not uncommon for lightning to ignite fuel and result in fire or explosion.
Stay away from tall isolated objects like trees, flagpoles or posts. Stay away from the shoreline, railway tracks, and metal fences which could bring current from a far-away lightning strike to you. Although still not as safe as indoors, dense wood provides a little protection due to a large number of trees that decrease the chance of lightning strike to a tree near you. However, in this (and any) case, don’t stand close to any of the trees.
A lightning strike can seriously alter your life as you know it. In other words, go with your best bet: Play it Safe.