IEMA, National Weather Service Remind People, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors”

June 22, 2014

Lightning Safety Awareness Week is June 22-28

SPRINGFIELD – “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors” is a good phase to remember 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.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) are joining forces to promote lightning safety during Lightning Safety Awareness Week June 22-28.

“More than 70 percent of lightning strike deaths occur during June, July and August, when people are enjoying more outdoor activities,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken.  “Don’t take a chance with lightning.  If you hear thunder, that’s your cue to take shelter immediately.”

Monken said some people still rely on outdated lightning safety rules, such as taking shelter only if you can’t count to 30 between seeing the lightning strike and hearing thunder.  People are now urged to take shelter in a substantial building or hard-topped car as soon as they hear thunder.

According to the NWS, on average around 50 people are killed and 1,000 people injured by lightning in the U.S. each year.  A majority of victims were either outdoors in an open area or taking part in an activity near the water, such as fishing, boating or swimming. 

To date in 2014, the NWS reports seven lightning-related deaths nationwide, none of those in Illinois. 

“The past several years there has been an increasing trend across the U.S. in lightning injuries and fatalities while people are taking part in outdoor activities, such as fishing, walking or sports events,” said Chris Miller, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS Lincoln Office.  “Simply put - there is no safe place outside in a thunderstorm.  You must take shelter in a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle to stay safe.”

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​ or contact IEMA at 217-785-9925.