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Preventing Florida Lighting Injuries

In Florida, lighting is the main weather-source killer, killing more people than all other weather causes of fatalities combined. There are more lighting fatalities and injuries in Florida than in any other state. While across the country the chances of being struck by lightning are about 280,000:1, in Florida those chances are 80, 000:1. In addition to the injuries and deaths caused, lightning also causes about $5 billion worth of damage each year. Usually, this is as a result of fires and property damage caused by lightning.

Lightning can cause lifelong personal injuries as well as severe brain injuries and burn injuries. One bolt of lightning is much hotter than the surface of the sun, at 50,000 degrees, so there is a high potential for severe injuries. The period between June and August sees the most lightning injuries and fatalities. In fact, over 70% of all lightning deaths occur during these few months.

There are several things that everyone can do to help prevent lightning related injuries:

1) Know how to avoid lightning if you’re stuck outside during a storm. If you hear thunder outside, try to move inside. Buildings that are completely enclosed and have plumbing and wiring offer the best protection from thunder. Tents, porches, picnic shelters, sheds, and temporary buildings are not a good place to hide during a thunderstorm. If you cannot find a building, stay inside of a metal vehicle with a hardtop. Close all the windows. If you cannot get to either a building or a car, stay away from open areas. As well, stay away from tall towers, utility poles, and tall trees that are away from other trees. Lightning will generally strike the tallest object in any specific area. Avoid being the tallest object and don’t stand near a tall object. Get out of the water if you are swimming or boating and avoid any metal objects, including fences or wires.

2) Stay alert about the weather. During the summer, listen to the forecast. If you are planning an outdoor activity but thunderstorms are predicted, consider rescheduling or moving your event indoors. If you see flashes of lightning, increasing wind, and darkening skies, it can mean that a thunderstorm is on the way. Stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities if at all possible.

3) If you’re outside, evaluate how close the lightning is. If you hear thunder and see lightning, count the period of time between the lightning and the thunder. Thunderstorms that have a window of 30 seconds or less during these two events can be dangerous because they’re close enough to injure you with lightning. Go indoors or find a shelter and wait until the thunderstorm passes. You should wait at least 30 minutes after the last lightning flash before re-emerging outdoors.

4) Practice safety indoors as well. Just because you’re indoors, that does not mean that you are completely safe from lightning. People are injured indoors during thunderstorms all the time. Electrical equipment and wiring as well as plumbing can conduct electricity from lightning. For these reasons, use only cell phones and cordless phones if you need to speak on the phone during a thunderstorm. Do not use a corded phone unless there is no other option. Avoid using sinks, showers, or bathtubs during a thunderstorm, since water pipes can conduct electricity from lightning. Avoid wiring and electrical devices as well.