June 21, 2013

Lightning Safety Awareness Week is June 23-29

SPRINGFIELD – Summer is here and it seems everyone is spending more time outdoors enjoying warm-weather activities. Officials with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) want you to remember, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors,” so your fun times won’t end in tragedy. The slogan is an important reminder that if you can hear thunder you’re close enough to be struck by lightning, even if the thunderstorm isn’t directly overhead.

The two agencies will be promoting this theme as part of national Lightning Safety Awareness Week June 23-29.

“Lightning can be fascinating to watch but it can also be deadly,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken. “While a thunderstorm may disrupt our outdoor fun, there’s really no safe place outside when lightning is in the area. We urge people to play it safe and go indoors when thunder roars.”

According to the NWS, each year more than 50 people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured by lightning in the United States. A majority of victims were either outdoors in an open area or taking part in an activity near the water such as fishing, boating or swimming.

To date in 2013, the NWS reports seven lightning-related deaths, including two in Illinois.

"Lightning remains one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States and injures many more people than it kills,” said Llyle Barker, Science and Operations Officer for the NWS Lincoln Office. “The best way to lower your risk when outdoors is to have a lightning safety strategy that includes a way to stay aware of developing weather conditions and a plan to take shelter nearby if a storm comes up quickly."

While less than 10 percent of people who are struck by lightning are killed, many lightning strike survivors suffer various degrees of disability. Only a few lightning strike victims actually suffer burns, and these are usually minor. However, many lightning strike survivors are left with debilitating life-long effects, including memory loss, personality changes, fatigue, irreparable nerve damage, chronic pain and/or headaches, difficulty sleeping and dizziness.

IEMA and the NWS offer the following tips for staying safe when thunderstorms approach:

Outdoor lightning safety tips:

  • No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to a safe shelter.
  • Safe shelter is a substantial building or inside an enclosed, hard-topped vehicle.
  • Stay in the safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder.

If there is no safe shelter anywhere nearby:

  • Seek lower elevation areas.
  • Never use a tree for shelter.
  • Immediately get out and away from pools, lakes and other bodies of water.
  • Stay away from all metallic objects (fences, power lines, poles, etc.).
  • Do not raise umbrellas or golf clubs above you.

People shouldn’t hesitate to help someone who has been struck by lightning since victims do not carry an electrical charge. The surge of electricity through a lightning victim’s body causes cardiac arrest in most fatalities, so immediate medical attention is critical. If the victim doesn’t have a pulse and isn’t breathing, CPR should be administered immediately. 

For additional tips on lightning safety visit the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov or contact IEMA at 217-785-9925.