WE ARE SAFETY SERVICES - Lightning Safety and Preparedness


Posted on Thursday, August 3, 2017

This year, Garrison Petawawa and area have had enough rain to cause high water levels and flooding. There’s an increase in the number of mosquitoes hatching and tormenting us while we try to enjoy any time outside. And lately there have been a number of days with a chance of a thunderstorm and lightning. Every year in Canada, lightning can cause as many as 10 deaths and 164 injuries. Direct strikes are responsible for only 5% of lightning-related deaths and injuries. Two other types of hazardous phenomena are caused by lightning – ground current and side flash.

A ground current is set up when lightning hits the ground, spreads out and sends a current through a victim. Side splash occurs when lightning hits a tall object, travels partly down the object and then jumps to a nearby victim. Garrison Petawawa has had reports of both ground current strikes and side splash strikes while members have been out in the field. The sandy soil will allow a lightning strike to travel a non-linear path and can even electrify small puddles of water!

Here are some simple precautions to remember while in the field, out on the soccer pitch, on a baseball diamond, on a golf course, or out on the water:

1. To plan for a safe day, check the weather forecast first. If thunderstorms are forecast, avoid being outdoors at that time – make alternate plans. Identify safe places and determine how long it will take you to reach them.

2. Watch the skies for developing thunderstorms and listen for thunder. As soon as you hear thunder, quickly get to a safe location. Lightning often strikes without the presence of heavy rain and may occur more than 16 km away from a storm. If you can HEAR thunder, you are in danger of being HIT by lightning. More people are struck before and after a thunderstorm than during one.

3. Get to a safe place. A safe location is a fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing. Sheds, picnic shelters, tents, or covered porches do NOT protect you from lightning. If no sturdy building is close by, get into a metal-roofed vehicle and close all the windows. The metal shell of the car provides a pathway for the lightning to strike to flow around the vehicle – keep hands in your lap to avoid touching any materials that may conduct electricity within the car.

4. Do not handle electrical equipment, telephones, or water/plumbing. These are all electrical conductors. Avoid doing laundry, playing on the computer or on a wired video game system, taking a bath, or touching a metal window frame – they all put you at risk of being struck by lightning. Unplug appliances and other electrical items, such as computers and televisions, to prevent damage from surges caused by lightning strikes. Use battery-operated appliances only.

5. If on water, get to shore as quickly as possible. The high waves and strong gusts of wind associated with sudden fast-moving storms can make it difficult for swimmers, boaters, and water skiers to reach shore safely. Lightning that hits water travels well beyond its point of contact. Small boats with no cabin provide less protection than boats with enclosed cabins.

6. If caught outdoors far from shelter, stay AWAY from tall objects. This includes trees, poles, wires, and fences. Take shelter in low-lying area, but be on the alert for possible flooding.

When thunder roars, GO INDOORS!