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See lightning, hear thunder? Seek shelter, find cover
Summer is here and with it brings the threat of dangerous storms. In recognition of Lightning Safety Awareness Week (June 18-24, 2017), the West Chester Fire Department reminds everyone of steps for reducing the risk of lighting-related incidents while spending time outdoors.
There are about 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the United States annually and more than 450,000 in Ohio according to data from the National Lightning Detection Network and the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio. On average, 51 Americans are killed by lightning per year.
When you hear thunder, it means lightning is close enough to pose an immediate threat – it can strike from up to 10 miles away. Take this as your warning to immediately seek shelter in buildings such as offices, schools and homes that offer good protection from the elements. Stay away from windows and doors inside, and avoid using anything that could conduct electricity such as corded phones, wiring and plumbing as these items all pose a risk if struck by lightning.
The best way to protect yourself against lightning injury or death is to monitor the weather and postpone or cancel outdoor activities when thunderstorms are in the forecast. While no outdoor space is safe during a thunderstorm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 5 office recommends the following actions to reduce your risk if you are caught outside without shelter:
- Never shelter under an isolated tree, tower or utility pole. Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an area.
- Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.
- Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
- Stay away from objects that conduct electricity, including wires and fences.
- Never lie flat on the ground – it actually increases your chances of being struck.
- Don’t rely solely on outdoor weather warning sirens. In West Chester, these sirens are reserved for relaying warnings regarding certain tornadic activity.
Monitor weather by listening to radio and TV reports, keeping a NOAA weather radio with spare batteries handy, or by downloading a weather-alert app on your smartphone, like the free FEMA app. In West Chester and Butler County, make sure your phone number is up-to-date in the Communicator telephone notification system’s database.