Lightning strike safety – what to do, how to protect yourself?

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After lightning struck four people this Thursday just outside the White House in Washington, DC — two of those people succumbed to their injuries and been pronounced dead — people are understandably focused on the damage and danger that lightning strikes pose.

How do you protect yourself?

What do you need to know about lightning to protect yourself?

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An interesting fact: Men are struck by lightning more often than women – that’s because they are more often involved in outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, golfing and are therefore more exposed to it.

Over the past five years, an average of 17 people have been killed by lightning strikes in the US.

Also, “more labor-related work,” such as outdoor construction and the like, makes men more vulnerable to lightning, Derek Deroche, severe weather program coordinator for the National Weather Service, told “TBEN Weather Sunrise” last month.

Video shows the moment lightning strikes a truck in Tampa, Florida.
(Michaelle May Whalen via Storyful)

Over the past five years, an average of 17 people have been killed by lightning in the US, although that number has been declining steadily since the turn of the century, according to TBEN Weather.

“That’s a credit to a now-decade effort by the National Lightning Safety Council and National Weather Service,” reported TBEN Weather, “to highlight the dangers of lightning and what you can do to stay safe.”

Warm weather that draws us outside increases the potential danger of lightning as thunderstorms approach.

“When we started the effort in 2001, the 10-year average death toll from lightning in the US was 55 deaths per year,” John Jensenius of the National Lightning Safety Council told TBEN Weather.

“That 10-year average has now dropped to 23.”

Thunder, lightning and rain during a summer storm.

Thunder, lightning and rain during a summer storm.
(iStock)

Here’s some other general information you should know about lightning and staying safe.

Warm weather that draws us outside increases the potential danger of lightning as thunderstorms approach.

Lightning strikes about 25 million times a year in the United States, killing an average of 47 people, according to the National Weather Service.

“A significant number of lightning deaths occur after the thunderstorm is over.”

“While most lightning occurs in the summer, people can be struck at any time of the year,” according to the NWS.

“While most lightning casualties occur at the start of an approaching storm, a significant number of lightning deaths occur after the thunderstorm has passed,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as TBEN News Digital previously reported.

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“If the thunder is heard – then the storm is close enough for a lightning strike.”

More tips to stay safe

If you’re outside and hear thunder, move to a “substantial” building with electricity or plumbing, or a locked metal-roofed vehicle with the windows all the way up, the National Weather Service advises as soon as possible.

Lightning illuminates the sky over Lower Manhattan as a bolt of lightning strikes One World Trade Center on August 22, 2017, as seen from Hoboken, NJ

Lightning illuminates the sky over Lower Manhattan as a bolt of lightning strikes One World Trade Center on August 22, 2017, as seen from Hoboken, NJ
(TBEN News/Gary Hershorn)

When indoors, stay away from corded telephones, computers, and other electronic equipment in direct contact with electricity.

In addition to avoiding plumbing fixtures such as sinks, tubs, and faucets, officials recommend staying away from windows and doors — and not lying on concrete floors or leaning on concrete walls.

When thunderstorms are approaching, get out and stay away from bodies of water.

Based on a review of cases from 2006 to 2018, NOAA said nearly two-thirds of all lightning-related deaths occurred during outdoor recreational events.

For those caught outside with no safe shelter available, officials offer the following tips to reduce the risk of getting hit.

Never lie flat on the ground or hide under an insulated tree.

Never seek shelter on a cliff or rocky undergrowth.

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Stay away from elevated areas.

When thunderstorms are approaching, get out and stay away from bodies of water.

Stay away from objects that conduct electricity, such as power lines and barbed wire fences.

TBEN Weather, as well as Travis Fedshun and James Rogers, contributed to this report.

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