June 23, 2015
NWS, emergency management officials seek to save lives, prevent injuries
SPRINGFIELD – Recent thunderstorms have produced spectacular lightning shows, but the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the National Weather Service (NWS) and local emergency management agencies are urging people to stay safe by heading indoors during storms as part of Lightning Safety Awareness Week June 21-27.
“There’s no safe place outdoors when lightning is in the area,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “If you’re close enough to hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning. That first clap of thunder is your cue to get into a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle.”
Joseph said remembering the phrase, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors,” can help you stay safe this summer while you’re enjoying outdoor activities. The catchy phrase is intended to remind people that hearing thunder means you’re close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Once inside a structure or hard-topped vehicle, stay there until 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder.
According to the NWS, there were no lightning-related fatalities in Illinois in 2014. Nationwide, 26 people were killed by lightning. Most of those fatalities occurred outdoors, including people in open areas, under trees, working, in water or participating in other outdoor activities.
“While lightning fatalities have decreased significantly nationwide over the past two decades, far too many people still take unnecessary risks when thunderstorms are in the area,” said Chris Miller, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS in Lincoln. "Every year, hundreds of people survive lightning strikes. However, many of these people are forced to cope with life-long neurological problems from their injuries. The best advice to prevent a lightning strike continues to be: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.”
While less than 10 percent of people who are struck by lightning are killed, many lightning strike survivors suffer various degrees of disability. Only a few lightning strike victims actually suffer burns, and these are usually minor. However, many lightning strike survivors are left with debilitating life-long effects, including memory loss, personality changes, fatigue, irreparable nerve damage, chronic pain and/or headaches, difficulty sleeping and dizziness.
IEMA and the NWS offer the following tips for staying safe when thunderstorms approach:
Outdoor lightning safety tips:
- No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
- If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
- When you hear thunder, immediately move to a safe shelter.
- Safe shelter is a substantial building or inside an enclosed, hard-topped vehicle.
- Stay in the safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder.
If there is no safe shelter anywhere nearby:
- Seek lower elevation areas.
- Never use a tree for shelter.
- Immediately get out and away from pools, lakes and other bodies of water.
- Stay away from all metallic objects (fences, power lines, poles, etc.).
- Do not raise umbrellas or golf clubs above you.
People shouldn’t hesitate to help someone who has been struck by lightning since victims do not carry an electrical charge. The surge of electricity through a lightning victim’s body causes cardiac arrest in most fatalities, so immediate medical attention is critical. If the victim doesn’t have a pulse and isn’t breathing, CPR should be administered immediately.
For additional tips on lightning safety visit the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov
or contact IEMA at 217-785-9925.