SEATTLE—Summer is the peak season for one of America’s deadliest weather phenomena—lightning. In 2008, hundreds of people were permanently injured by lightning strikes across the country, and 28 were killed. This year to-date, 11 people have been killed by lightning, and statistically, the Fourth of July is one of the most deadly times of the year. According to FEMA Acting Regional Administrator Dennis Hunsinger, National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, observed the last full week of June, not only helps get safety messages out in time for the Fourth of July, but also signals summer as lightning season.
“All thunderstorms produce lightning—and no place outside is safe when lightning is in the area. When thunder roars? Go indoors!” said Hunsinger. “If you can hear thunder, you are in danger. We all need to incorporate lightning safety into our family disaster planning.”
Lightning safety tips for inside the home include:
• Avoid contact with corded phones
• Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.
• Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry.
• Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
• Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
Lightning can strike as far as ten miles away from any rainfall, creating hotspots that smolder for days, to erupt when conditions are right. “Summer is also wildfire season in the Pacific Northwest,” cautions Hunsinger. “Those of us who live in urban interface areas, wooded lots, or near heavily-grassed and dry rangeland should create fire-safe perimeters, and update family disaster plans.”
For more information on lightning safety this year, visit: www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov. For wildfire preparedness tips, sample preparedness plans and emergency checklists, visit http://firewise.org/ or www.fema.gov.