Thursday, March 31, 2011 —The arrival of spring brings longer days, warmer weather, budding flowers and trees, and thunderstorms. The American Red Cross has several important tips that can help ensure safety during dangerous storms.
Thunderstorms can be deadly. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), lightning injures an average of three hundred people and causes about 80 fatalities each year. As dangerous as lightning is, flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities than any other danger associated with thunderstorms.
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 happen any time of the day or night.
The Red Cross recommends taking these steps if a thunderstorm hits your area:
- 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.
As the storm approaches, take shelter in a building. If you are driving, pull off the roadway and park. Stay in the car with the windows closed and turn on the emergency flashers. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity inside and outside of the vehicle. If you are inside, you should:
- 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 are caught outside during a thunderstorm and cannot reach a safe building, try to avoid: high ground, water, tall, isolated trees and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.
If someone is struck by lightning, check them for burns and other injuries. If the person has stopped breathing, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR.
Being prepared for emergencies can help save someone’s life. You can call your local Red Cross chapter for information about first aid and CPR training. For more information on what to do to stay safe during these dangerous Spring storms, visit the preparedness section of the Red Cross web site.