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Lightning Safety

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

lightning strike 3

Incidences of lightning strikes are more common in the Midwest, Gulf Coast, and Atlantic regions of the United States because these regions have thunderstorms more frequently than the rest of the country, as shown in the image below.¹ An estimated 400 lightning injuries occur annually based on data averaged over the last decade.² Lightning danger is no joke or freak accident. The Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Journal has some safety recommendations that can help minimize your risk of a strike if you find yourself outside in a thunderstorm.

lightening

Know the warning signs for thunderstorms:

  • Building Cumulonimbus clouds (pictured below)
  • Increasing winds
  • Darkening skies

800px-Anvil_shaped_cumulus_panorama_edit_crop

Minimize your risk of attracting lightning:

  •  No place is absolutely safe from from a lightning strike.
  • Ridge lines and summits are the highest risk areas for a lightning strike
  • Avoid tall objects like ski lifts, isolated trees and telephone poles
  • When thunder roars, go in doors.
    • Take shelter in:
      • The largest close building and stay away from the doors and windows (for example a campground bathroom)
      • A car with the windows up and the doors closed (soft tops will not offer protection)
      • If no car or building is near, head as deep into dense woods as possible or find a deep cave or ravine to minimize risk of a side splash strike or ground current
    • Do NOT SHELTER in:
      • a tent will not offer protection
      • a soft top car will not offer protection
crouch

Our very own, Annie Smith demonstrating the lightening strike position.

Protect your body if strike is imminent:

  • Crouch with knees and feet close together (see image right)
    • this creates one point of contact with the ground
  • Insulate yourself from the ground by standing on a rock, backpack, dry coiled ropes, rolled foam sleeping pad
    • make sure to remove any metal from yourself and the insulating objects
    • this will minimize risk of of ground current

 

 

 

It is best to wait 30 minutes after you hear the last thunder clap to leave your hiding spot, this will ensure you have at least a 10 mile buffer zone between yourself and the lightning activity.

¹Worldwide density of lightning strikes. The Lightning Imaging Sensor global lightning distribution image was obtained from NASA’s EOSDIS through the Global Hydrology Resource Center, Huntsville, AL. http://ghrc.nsstc.nasa.gov/.

²National Weather Service . Medical Aspects of Lightning . http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/medical.htm 2010; Accessed February 15, 2012