While you're having fun
outdoors, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the National
Weather Service want you to stay safe when summer thunderstorms
approach. That's why they're joining together to observe Lightning
Safety Awareness Week during the week of June 20-26.
"Tornadoes and hurricanes tend
to grab the big headlines, but lightning kills more people each year
in the U.S. than either of these types of storms," said IEMA
Director William C. Burke. "Unfortunately, many people have mistaken
perceptions of lightning dangers. During Lightning Safety Awareness
Week, we want to help people learn the safety measures they should
take and hopefully prevent some deaths and serious injuries from
Each year in the U.S.,
approximately 73 people are killed by lightning and more than 1,000
are injured. In most lightning fatalities, victims die from cardiac
arrest caused by the surge of electricity through their body. For
those who survive lightning strikes, many will suffer long-term
effects, including memory loss, personality changes, fatigue,
irreparable nerve damage, chronic pain or headaches, difficulty
sleeping, and dizziness. Only a few victims suffer burns, and many
of these are minor.
"Illinois experiences nearly
650,000 lightning strikes each year," according to Chris Miller,
warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service
in Lincoln. "Most lightning fatalities and injuries occur during
outdoor recreational events in the summer. Coaches, officials,
participants and spectators all need to be aware of the threat for
deadly lightning. Seeking shelter indoors, or in an enclosed
vehicle, is the smartest and safest thing to do when a thunderstorm
While many storms come up
quickly, there are several steps you can take to protect you and
your family from lightning dangers. Some tips for lightning safety
include the following:
-- When you see lightning, start counting. If you cannot count to
30 before you hear thunder, get indoors immediately! Once indoors,
stay there for 30 minutes after hearing the last rumble of thunder
before resuming outdoor activities.
Get away from water --
Stop activities in
or near water, such as swimming, boating, fishing and camping, and
seek a substantial shelter.
The best shelter from
lightning is inside a substantial building.
Avoid carports, porches, garages, sheds, tents, baseball
dugouts or under bleachers.
If no substantial shelter
is available, seek refuge in a hard-topped vehicle with the
Stay away from trees,
electrical poles and other tall objects.
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"Although nearly a third of
lightning injuries are work-related, a growing number are to
children on sports fields," said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper of the
bioengineering and emergency medicine departments at the University
of Illinois at Chicago and a nationally recognized expert on
lightning injuries. "Adults are always responsible for the children
in their care, and this includes the coaches and referees who should
postpone games whenever lightning is seen or thunder is heard or
severe thunderstorms are predicted. Parents also can be
indispensable in watching the sky during games."
Substantial buildings, such as
homes and office buildings, offer the best protection from
lightning, although lightning can still strike these structures.
Lightning can enter a building through a direct strike, through
wires or pipes that extend outside the building, or through the
ground. Once in a structure, the current from a lightning strike can
travel through electrical lines, plumbing, phone lines, and radio or
TV reception systems.
To stay safe indoors during a
thunderstorm, you should:
use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the U.S.
Stay away from windows
and exterior doors --
Windows and doors can provide
a path for a direct strike to enter a home.
Stay off porches and
decks -- Even if a
porch is covered, it does not offer any protection from lightning
Avoid contact with
electrical equipment or cords
-- Direct strikes and power surges due to lightning cause
significant damage to personal property each year. If you plan to
unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm
- Avoid contact with corded
Stay away from plumbing and
plumbing appliances --
Do not take a shower or bath
during a thunderstorm. Avoid appliances such as dishwashers,
washing machines and electric hot-water heaters, since they use
both water and electricity.
learn more about steps to staying safe during thunderstorms, IEMA
and the NWS developed a
"Lightning Safety Awareness"
guide. It includes information on lightning
risks, lightning safety both outdoors and indoors, lightning safety
on the job, lightning strike injuries, and the science of lightning.
[To download the Adobe Acrobat
reader for the PDF file, click here.]
The guide is also available by
calling (217) 785-0229.
Emergency Management Agency news release]