City, NFPA Offer Safety Tips for Lightning Storms

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City, NFPA Offer Safety Tips for Lightning Storms

Posted: 08/05/2015
You’re grilling hamburgers on the backyard patio. As you flip them over, you notice that the sky is getting dark. Next, you see a flash of lightning. Then you hear a clap of thunder. What should you do? What precautions should you take?

In late summer, thunder and lightning storms are fairly common occurrences. But it’s important to realize just how dangerous lightning can be and the damage it can do.

Lightning strikes can kill people caught outside and exposed, and they also can cause fires. While deaths and injuries from lightning-started fires are infrequent, the dollar loss totals more than $400 million per year.

“There are simple precautions that we urge people to take during a lightning storm that can save lives and decrease the chances of injury and damage,” says Greg Taylor, the City’s Electrical Inspections Chief.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the City of Knoxville Electrical Inspections unit recommend these safety steps:

• Unplug appliances and other electrical items, such as computers, and turn off air conditioners. If you are unable to unplug them, turn them off.

• Follow the 30-30 rule: When you see lightning, count 30 seconds until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is within six miles and is dangerous. Seek shelter immediately. The threat of lightning continues longer than most people realize. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before leaving your shelter.

• If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Seek shelter immediately.

• Stop outdoor activities at the first clap of thunder and get inside a house, a large building or a hard-topped vehicle.

• When inside, stay off corded phones, computers and other electronic equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity. Also, avoid washing your hands, showering, bathing, doing laundry or washing dishes, which put you in contact with plumbing.

• If you are in open water, go to land and seek shelter immediately.

• If you feel your hair stand on end, indicating that lightning is about to strike, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground. This is a last resort when a building or hard-topped vehicle is not available.

• If a person is struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 and get medical care immediately. Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge; attend to them immediately. Check the person’s breathing, heartbeat and pulse.