As spring storms pop up this month, the State Fire Marshal’s Office wants to remind Tennesseans to keep safety in mind when lightning and storms are imminent.
“Lightning strikes can cause fires. And, as the season’s warmer weather gives rise to storm activity, we want Tennesseans to know what the risks and precautions are,” says State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “It is important to monitor weather conditions and get to a safe place before the climate becomes threatening.”
According to the National Weather Service, each year lightning causes about 4,400 home structure fires, 12 fire-related deaths and close to $1 billion in damages. Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall. Because of this, many lightning deaths occur ahead of storms or after storms seemingly have passed.
The following tips can help greatly reduce the risk from lightning:
If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Look for shelter inside a home, large building, or a hard-topped vehicle right away. Do not go under tall trees for shelter. There is no place outside that is safe during a thunderstorm. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before leaving your shelter.
Stay away from windows and doors.
If you are in or on open water, go to land and seek shelter immediately.
If you feel your hair stand on end, that means lightning is about to strike. Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and 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-struck victims carry no electrical charge; attend to them immediately. Check their breathing, heartbeat and pulse. They might need CPR to be administered.
Unplug appliances and other electrical items, such as computers, and turn off air conditioners. If you are unable to unplug them, turn them off. Stay off corded phones, computers, and other electronic equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity or plumbing. Avoid washing your hands, bathing, doing laundry or washing dishes.
As always, your home should have smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
For more information on making your home fire-safe, download and print the State Fire Marshal’s home fire safety checklist (http://tn.gov/fire/fsk/documents/checklist.pdf).