Caught off Guard-Lightning
Three Boca Raton firefighters were recently struck by lightning. They were injured while responding to a backyard fire caused by a previous lightning strike. All three were knocked off their feet and one began having a seizure.
“It is a critical reminder about the perils of a thunderstorm. In Florida, thunderstorms are so common, we forget about their dangers,” said Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowner’s insurance agency.
Florida is the lightning capital of the United States. Lightning kills and injures more people in Florida than any other state. The Red Cross reports, more people are killed every year by lightning strikes, than tornadoes and hurricanes. Thunderstorms produce lightning along with damaging winds and heavy rain that can cause flooding.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates, 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes in the U. S. every year. Lightning can strike more than 10 miles from where it is raining. If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose a threat.
All thunderstorms produce lightning. Lightning strikes cause horrific injuries. Being struck can cause burns, serious lifelong pain and permanent neurological disabilities, as well as cardiac arrest and death.
Some safety tips to heed during a thunderstorm are listed below.
Lightning can enter a structure through metal water and sewage pipes so avoid bathing, washing dishes or other water required activities.
Do not talk on a landline phone. A bolt of lightning could hit a telephone pole and cause an electrical surge to shoot through the line. Cell phones are safe as long as they are not plugged in to an electrical socket.
Unplug electrical items. Lightning travels through electrical wiring, plugs and cords.
Keep your distance from windows and doors. Lightning can move through glass and unsealed cracks along floors and window panes.
“Every year homeowner insurance claims for lightning losses total in the hundreds of millions, reports Buck with GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowner insurance agency. “Florida usually tops the list with thousands of claims annually.”
When thunder roars, go indoors. There is no safe place outside during a thunderstorm. If you are in the water, get out immediately. Avoid open structures such as gazebos, porches and baseball dugouts.
Lightning tends to strike the tallest object in the area and you do not want that to be you. If you are caught in an open area, such as a golf course or ball field, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you crouch down into a ball position, with your feet and knees together with your head tucked and your hands over your ears. The idea is to get low without touching the ground. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly from over 100 feet away.
If you are in a group spread out from one another to reduce the number of injuries if lighting strikes the ground.
Wait to go outside for 30 minutes after you hear the last thunderclap.
Someone who is struck does not carry and electrical charge and requires medical attention immediately.