Lightning Detection Systems From SkyScan Canada

(416) 629 1324

Lightning Safety

Lightning Safety Tips

Note: The individual is ultimately responsible for his/her personal safety and has the right to take appropriate action when threatened by lightning. Adults must take responsibility for the safety of children in their care during thunderstorm activity. The seemingly random nature of thunderstorms cannot guarantee the individual or group absolute protection from lightning strikes. However, being aware of, and following proven lightning safety guidelines can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death

Safer Locations During Thunderstorms and Locations To Avoid:

While no place is absolutely safe from the lightning threat, some places are safer than others. Large enclosed structures (substantially constructed buildings) tend to be much safer than smaller or open structures. The risk for lightning injury depends on whether the structure incorporates lightning protection, construction materials used, and the size of the structure. In general, fully enclosed metal vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses, vans, fully enclosed farm vehicles, etc. with the windows rolled up provide good shelter from lightning. Avoid contact with metal or conducting surfaces outside or inside the vehicle. AVOID being in or near high places and open fields, isolated trees, unprotected gazebos, rain or picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, communications towers, flagpoles, light poles, bleachers (metal or wood), metal fences, convertibles, golf carts, water (ocean, lakes, swimming pools, rivers, etc.). When inside a building AVOID use of the telephone, taking a shower, washing your hands, doing dishes, or any contact with conductive surfaces with exposure to the outside such as metal door or window frames, electrical wiring, telephone wiring, cable TV wiring, plumbing, etc.

Safety Guidelines For Individuals:

Generally speaking, if an individual can see lightning and/or hear thunder he/she is already at risk. Louder or more frequent thunder indicates that lightning activity is approaching, increasing the risk for lightning injury or death. If the time delay between seeing the flash (lightning) and hearing the bang (thunder) is less than 30 seconds, the individual should be in, or seek a safer location (see Safer Locations During Thunderstorms and Locations To Avoid). Be aware that this method of ranging has severe limitations in part due to the difficulty of associating the proper thunder to the corresponding flash. High winds, rainfall, and cloud cover often act as precursors to actual cloud-to-ground strikes notifying individuals to take action. Many lightning casualties occur in the beginning, as the storm approaches, because people ignore or are unaware of such precursors. Also, many lightning casualties occur after the perceived threat has passed. Generally, the lightning threat diminishes with time after the last sound of thunder, but may persist for more than 30 minutes. Lightning itself knows no direction. When thunderstorms are in the area but not overhead, the lightning threat can exist even when it is sunny, not raining, or when clear sky is visible. When available, pay attention to weather warning devices such as NOAA weather radio and/or credible lightning detection systems [like SkyScan]. However, do not let this information override good common sense.


Considerations For Small Groups:
[when the evacuation time is less than ten minutes]

An action plan must be known in advance by all persons involved (see Important Components To An Action Plan). School teachers, camp counselors, lifeguards, and other adults must take responsibility for the safety of children in their care. Local weather forecasts, NOAA weather radio, or the Weather Channel should be monitored prior to the outdoor event to ascertain if thunderstorms are in the forecast. Designate a responsible person to monitor forecasted weather as well as to observe on-site developments to keep everyone informed when potential threats develop. Recognize that personal observation of lightning may not be sufficient. Additional information such as a lightning detection system, or additional weather information may be required to ensure consistency, accuracy, and adequate advance warning. Even though technology and instrumentation have proven to be effective, they cannot fully guarantee safety. Instrumentation can be used to enhance warning during the initial stages of the storm by detecting lightning in relation to the area of concern. Advance notification of the storm’s arrival should be used to provide additional time to seek safety. Detectors are also a valuable tool to determine the “All Clear” (last occurrence of lightning within a specified range), providing a time reference for safe resumption of activities.

Considerations For Large Groups:
[… when the evacuation time is less than ten minutes]

An action plan must be known in advance by all persons involved (see Important Components To An Action Plan). Adults must take responsibility for the safety of children in their care. Local weather forecasts, NOAA weather radio, or the Weather Channel should be monitored prior to the outdoor event to ascertain if thunderstorms are in the forecast. During the event, a designated responsible person
should monitor site relative weather condition changes. Personal observation of the lightning threat is not adequate. Additional information including detecting actual lightning strikes and monitoring the range at which they are occurring relative to the activity is required to ensure consistency, accuracy, and adequate advance warning. Even though technology and instrumentation have proven to be effective, they cannot guarantee safety. Instrumentation can be used to enhance warning during the initial stages of the storm by detecting lightning in relation to the area of concern. Advance notification of the storm’s arrival should be used to provide additional time to seek safety. Detectors are also a valuable tool to determine the “All Clear” (last occurrence of lightning within a specified range), providing a time reference for safe resumption of activities.

When larger groups are involved the time needed to properly evacuate an area increases. As time requirements change, the distance at which lightning is noted and considered a threat to move into the area must be increased. Extending the range used to determine threat potential also increases the chance that a localized cell or thunderstorm may not reach the area giving the impression of a “false alarm”. Remember, lightning is always generated and connected to a thundercloud but may strike many miles from the edge of the thunderstorm cell. Acceptable downtime (time of alert state) has to be balanced with the risk posed by lightning. Accepting responsibility for larger groups of people requires more sophistication and diligence to assure that all possibilities are considered.

Important Components Of An
Action Plan:

Management, event coordinators, organizations, and groups should designate a responsible person(s) to monitor the weather to initiate the evacuation process when appropriate. Monitoring should begin days and even hours ahead of an event. A protocol needs to be in place to notify all persons at risk from the lightning threat. Depending on the number of individuals involved, a team of people may be needed to coordinate the evacuation plan. Adults must take responsibility for the safety of children in their care. Safer sites must be identified beforehand, along with a means to route the people to those locations. School buses are an excellent lightning shelter that can be provided (strategically placed around various locations) by organizers of outdoor events, with larger groups of people and larger areas, such as golf tournaments, summer day camps, swim meets, military training, scout groups, etc. The “All Clear” signal must be identified and should be considerably different than the “Warning” signal. The Action Plan must be periodically reviewed by all personnel and drills conducted. Consider placing lightning safety tips and/or the action plan in game programs, flyers, score cards, etc., and placing lightning safety placards around the area. Lightning warning signs are effective means of communicating the lightning threat to the general public and raise awareness.

First Aid Recommendations For Lightning Victims:

Most lightning victims can actually survive their encounter with lightning, especially with timely medical treatment. Individuals struck by lightning do not carry a charge and it is safe to touch them to render medical treatment. Follow these steps to try to save the life of a lightning victim:

1) First: Call 911 to provide directions and information about the likely number of victims.

2) Response: The first tenet of emergency care is “make no more casualties”. If the area where the victim is located is a high risk area (mountain top, isolated tree, open field, etc.) with a continuing thunderstorm, the rescuers may be lacing themselves in significant danger.

3)Evacuation: It is relatively unusual for victims who survive a lightning strike to have major fractures that would cause paralysis or major bleeding complications unless they have suffered a fall or been thrown a distance. As a result, in an active thunderstorm, the rescuer needs to choose whether evacuation from very high risk areas to an area of lesser risk is warranted and should not be afraid to move the victim rapidly if necessary. Rescuers are cautioned to minimize their exposure to lightning as much as possible.

4) Resuscitation: If the victim is not breathing, start mouth to mouth resuscitation. If it is decided to move the victim, give a few quick breaths prior to moving them. Determine if the victim has a pulse by checking the pulse at the carotid artery (side of the neck) or femoral artery (groin) for at least 20-30 seconds. If no pulse is detected, start cardiac compressions as well. In situations that are cold and wet, putting a protective layer between the victim and the ground may decrease the hypothermia that the victim suffers which can further complicate the resuscitation. In wilderness areas and those far from medical care, prolonged basic CPR is of little use: the victim is unlikely to recover if they do not respond within the first few minutes. If the pulse returns, the rescuer should continue ventilation with rescue breathing if needed for as long as practical in a wilderness situation. However, if a pulse does not return after twenty to thirty minutes of good effort, the rescuer should not feel guilty about stopping resuscitation.

Conclusion:

Avoid unnecessary exposure to the lightning threat during thunderstorm activity. Follow these safety recommendations to reduce the overall number of lightning casualties. An individual ultimately must take responsibility for his or her own safety and should take appropriate action when threatened by lightning. School teachers, camp counselors, coaches, lifeguards, and other adults must take responsibility for the safety of children in their care. A weather radio and the use of lightning detection data in conjunction with an action plan are prudent components of a lightning warning policy, especially when larger groups and/or longer evacuation times are involved.

Leave a Comment