Did you know at any given time, nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring somewhere on earth? Thunderstorms occur more in the spring and summer months, but can happen year round. They are most likely to hit during the afternoon and evening, but can also happen any time of the day or night.
Thunderstorms are dangerous, producing lightning every time. And they can be deadly. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), lightning injures an average of 300 people and causes about 80 fatalities each year. Thunderstorms can also bring tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding. As dangerous as lightning is, flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities than any other danger associated with thunderstorms.
The American Red Cross wants you and your loved ones to stay safe during a thunderstorm. Follow these important safety rules should a thunderstorm hit your area:
Before lightning strikes
- Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.
- If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts.
The storm approaches
- Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.
- Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
- Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
- Turn off the air conditioner. 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 from shattering into your home.
If you're caught outside
- If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
- If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately!
- Go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
- Be a very small target! Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible.
- Do not lie flat on the ground--this will make you a larger target!
After the storm
- Stay away from storm-damaged areas.
- Listen to the radio for information and instructions.
If someone is struck by lightning
- People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely.
- Call for help. Get someone to dial 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) 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.
- Give 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. Learn first aid and CPR by taking a Red Cross first aid and CPR course. Call your local Red Cross chapter for class schedules and fees.
Remember, flash flooding is a hazard associated with thunderstorms. For information on how to protect yourself during a flash flood, and be prepared in other dangerous situations, visit our web site.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.