Monday, March 31, 2008
10:23 AM

Safety tips for lightning storms 

(BLUE SPRINGS, MO – Feb. 18, 2008) Thunderstorms can crop up any time of year in Missouri. “While we worry about tornadoes, lightning is a serious danger as well,” says Georgia Stuart-Simmons, University of Missouri Extension community development specialist. “If storms are threatening, keep an eye - and ear - to the sky. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning and should seek shelter immediately.”  

If you are inside when a storm approaches, be aware that telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances and avoid using the telephone or any electric appliances during a storm. Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chance of your home being struck by lightning. You will want to avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose. Turn off the air conditioner because power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job. Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass shards from flying into your home.

If you are caught outside, try to find shelter in a building or car (with the car windows closed). If you are in the woods, take shelter under shorter trees. If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.  To protect yourself, go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles and metal objects. Make sure the place you choose is not subject to flooding. To make yourself a very small target:

·         Squat low to the ground.

·         Place your hands on your knees with your head between them.

·         Do not lie flat on the ground - this will make you a larger target.

“Should someone be struck by lightning, you should know that people struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely,” says Stuart-Simmons. Call for help: Get someone to dial 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number. The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned, both where they were struck and where the electricity left their body. Check for burns in both places. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing or eyesight. Administer first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries.

The American Red Cross web site, redcross.org, has more information on surviving lightning as well as other types of storms. You can also contact Georgia Stuart-Simmons, University of Missouri Extension community development specialist, at stuartsimmonsg@missouri.edu; or visit your local Extension office or extension.missouri.edu.

Georgia Stuart-Simmons, Community Development Specialist
University of Missouri Extension
(660) 747-3193

University Outreach and Extension David Reinbott, reinbottd@missouri.edu
Agriculture Business Specialist
Last modified: March 31, 2008