7/25/2006 - Playing It Safe When Lightning Strikes

Playing It Safe When Lightning Strikes
Tips on Lightning Safety and Preparedness

Presented by the Hackensack Fire Department and The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas

Lightning causes more casualties in the United States than any other weather-related phenomenon except flooding. Lightning injuries can lead to permanent disability or death.

On average 20% of lightning strike victims die and 70% of survivors suffer life-long disabilities. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 27% of lightning incidents occur in open fields, 14% under trees and 8% are water-related. 75% of strikes occur during summer months.

People are most at risk between 2:00 and 6:00 PM; males are more likely to be struck than females.

In keeping with our mission “The Past We Can’t Change…The Future We Can,” The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas, Saint Barnabas Burn Foundation and the Hackensack Fire Department are pleased to offer the following tips designed to help keep you safe before, during and after a thunderstorm.

Keep an eye on the sky. Warning signs include thickening, darkening clouds, a sudden drop in temperature, flashes of light, increasing winds or sounds of thunder in the distance. The National Lightning Safety Institute advises: “If you can see it, flee it; if you can hear it, clear it.” Lightning can travel as far as 10 miles, making it appear to strike “out of a clear blue sky.” By the time you hear thunder, you are already in range of where the next ground flash of lightning may occur.

Follow the “30/30 rule.” If you see lightning, count how many seconds before you hear thunder. If it’s less that 30 seconds, seek shelter immediately. As a storm passes, wait 30 minutes after that last clap of thunder before leaving the protection of shelter. One-half of all lightning deaths occur just after the height of the storm when people mistakenly believe the danger has passed.

If someone has been struck by lightning, call 911 immediately. Check for unresponsiveness and, if you’re qualified, administer first aid or CPR depending upon the victim’s medical condition until help arrives. Contrary to popular belief, people struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge and maybe touched at no risk to rescuers. You may also consult with The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas at (973)322-5920 for follow-up patient care.

Preparation is key to survival before, during and even after a thunderstorm. By following these recommendations you ensure your safety and the safety of others. Remember, when thunder can be heard or lightning can be seen, seconds really do matter regardless of what the score is or how much time remains in the game!

If a storm comes up suddenly and you find yourself caught outside, look for an enclosed structure, such as a building or motor vehicle. Stay away from metal items, including bleachers, fences, baseball bats, tent poles, golf clubs and other sports-related equipment.

If you are unable to reach shelter, move to a low-lying area, away from wide-open spaces, tall trees, poles or metal objects. Keep twice as far away from an object as it is high (i.e. move 20 feet away from a 10 foot pole).

Move at least 100 yards inshore away from all water, lakes or pools.

Do not huddle together as a group. Instead, spread out at least 15 feet from one another to minimize the risk of being struck.

Become a smaller target by assuming a lightning crouch. Squat low to the ground; keep feet together and your head tucked low, covering your ears to minimize hearing damage.

For more details on lightning safety, visit www.nssl.noaa.gov or www.lightningsafety.com

For further information about lightning safety and other burn safety and educational program, please contact Saint Barnabas Burn Foundation at 973- 322-8071 or visit our web site at www.njburncenter.com

Located in Livingston, The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center is New Jersey’s only designated burn treatment facility, combining the most advanced techniques in life support. A multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals provide state of the art treatment in a caring environment.

Saint Barnabas Burn foundation is the education, research and fund-raising arm of the Burn Center at Saint Barnabas. In addition to conducting comprehensive burn prevention and fire safety programs for the community, the Foundation also provides counseling and financial assistance to burn survivors treated at The Burn Center and their families.

Saint Barnabas Health Care System
Saint Barnabas Burn Foundation
94 Old Short Hills Road, Livingston, NJ 07039