Striking a Safe Note in a Lightning Storm

Striking a Safe Note in a Lightning Storm | Achieving Hazard Reduction--Call to Action!If you get caught in a lightning storm, you’re safe if you stand where it has struck before, right? Wrong. This is just one of many myths that surround this powerful, dangerous weather condition. It is important for achieving hazard reduction that anyone who works outside should know what to do if lightning strikes.

Since ancient times, people have tried to explain this awesome display of weather might and come up with ways to stay safe around it. Unfortunately, this has led to a number of myths that are still commonly believed.

The most common is that lightening never strikes twice in the same place. This would be news to building superintendents of tall buildings. The Empire State Building in New York City, for example, gets struck by lightning almost 100 times annually. Any tall structure, especially if capped with a point, is fair game.

Another popularly believed myth is that a lightning storm will never occur when the sky is clear. The fact is quite different. Lightning can occur 10 to 15 miles away from the center of a storm, well away from its rain and clouds.  50 things you must know about safety leadership

One dangerous myth is the idea that the rubber tires on your car or truck will protect you from the effects of lightning from the ground by providing insulation. The lightning moves through the metal and then into the ground and the tires provide no protection at all. Your metal roof and sides offer the only protection, though It is important not to lean on vehicle doors during a storm.

Be Prepared for Thunder

Achieving hazard reduction in a lightning storm means that anytime you plan to be outside for a lengthy period, it is essential to check the weather forecast. Your local weather service will issue a thunderstorm watch when a severe storm is expected. It will be called a warning if thunder is already spotted on radar and is fast approaching.

Achieving  Hazard Reduction When Outside

If you hear that a thunderstorm is expected, stay indoors. If you can actually hear the thunder, then you can be struck by lightning and need to find shelter immediately. The best cover is a solid building or if one isn’t close by, a car with a hard top roof. Be sure to close the car windows.

If you can’t find a building, head for a low spot like a ravine–as long as you aren’t in the way of a possible flash flood! If you can’t find shelter and suddenly feel your hair stand on end, you need to take immediate action. Squat low to the ground, making yourself as small as possible. Put your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Reduce your contact with the ground as much as possible.

If your aim is achieving hazard reduction in a lightning storm, the worst places to go are under a tree, in a small shed, in a boat, near the water, or in a convertible car.

Achieving  Hazard Reduction When Indoors

If you are inside your home or another building, draw the curtains or pull the blinds covering the windows. Then stay as far away from the windows as possible.

This is not the time to clean up with a bath or shower. All types of plumbing fixtures like toilets, sinks, faucets and showers are good conductors of electricity.

fctc-online-bannerTake care of your equipment and electrical devices. Since the telephone wires and even metal pipes conduct electricity, it is wise to unplug your appliances. You shouldn’t use a land line during a lightning storm but cell phones are safe. Because lightning often causes power surges that put too much load on its compressors, be sure to turn off air conditioners.

Thunder and lightning should be a concern. If you pay attention only the myths about these elemental weather conditions, you are putting yourself in danger. Learn the proper actions to take to protect yourself in an electrical storm.  Only then will you truly be achieving hazard reduction in a storm.

The two-minute video below shows how erroneous the belief is that lightning never strikes twice in the same spot. How about eight times?!

~Mary Hannick

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About the Author

safetyBUILT-IN is the safety-leadership learning and development division of SCInc. We believe sustainable safety performance is best achieved through a core-values based safety culture, and that culture must be driven by leadership. Our safety-leadership programs are competency-based, and focused on performance outcomes. We believe in building capability and ownership into our client organizations—as well as sustainability into our programs—so that our clients can continue running those programs long after we’re out of the picture. Our emphasis is on building better leadership presence, better leadership communication and better leadership coaching by first building relationships of trust with people and learning how to engage them on the level of their core values and beliefs.