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Summertime is meant for enjoying outdoor activities, but if you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to put you in danger. The National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency want you to learn ways you can enjoy the warm temperatures and still protect yourself and your family when storm clouds roll in.
“Lightning is one of the top storm-related killers in the United States,” said John Jensenius, a Lightning Safety Specialist with the NWS. “Unfortunately, people are often involved in activities and take risks that put them in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation.”
“No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area,” said FEMA Region V acting regional administrator Janet Odeshoo. “Stay up-to-date on the weather forecast and have a plan in place for where to go in bad weather. Make sure to share that plan with your family and any others who are outside with you.”
The safest place to be during a storm is inside a sturdy building. When indoors, stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity. If you are caught outside with no substantial structures nearby, the following actions may reduce your risk of being struck by lightning:
• If possible, move inside a hard-topped metal vehicle with windows closed. Avoid contact with metal in the vehicle and try to keep away from windows.
• Never shelter under an isolated tree, tower or utility pole. Lightning tends to strike taller objects in an area.
• Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks, and move to the lowest area you can get to quickly.
• Get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water and avoid metal objects (i.e., wires and fences). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity.
• Never lie flat on the ground: to minimize your chance of being struck, you have to minimize your height and your body’s contact with the earth’s surface.
• Consider postponing or canceling outdoor activities when thunderstorms are forecast.
For additional information on lightning safety—wherever you may be this summer—visit www.ready.gov/thunderstorms-lightning. You can find more valuable storm safety tips by visiting www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov. Consider also downloading the free FEMA app, available for your Android, Apple or Blackberry device, so you have the information at your fingertips to prepare for severe weather.