Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer Safety Series: Stormy Weather

Did you know that lightning kills more than 60 people a year in the United States and over 300 people a year are injured? And, according to the National Weather Service, that total is higher than death by tornadoes and hurricanes. However, many do not take this danger seriously and put themselves at risk by not following simple safety measures.

Be aware that thunderstorms can happen all year round although severe storms generally occur during the warmer months from March through October. No matter when the storm happens, all thunderstorms are dangerous!

Despite thunderstorms being smaller than a hurricane, all thunderstorms have the capability of producing not only lightning but tornadoes, strong winds, flash flooding and hail.

So what can you do to keep yourself and loved ones safe?

* Prepare ahead of time
Emergency Supplies: Just like for other disaster preparation it's important to have emergency supply items on hand, such as food, water, medicines, first aid materials, batteries, flashlight, battery operated radio, etc. (for full details see emergency kit preparation information at

Family Emergency Plan: be sure to create a plan before an emergency occurs. The plan should include evacuation routes, a mutually agreed place where to reunite , plus an out of the area emergency contact if possible.

* What do to when a storm occurs
* shutter windows, draw blinds and shades. If windows break due to flying objects, this will help protect your home from shattered glass.
* listen to a batter powered radio or television for updated news and possible instructions from Public Safety Officials.
* do not use or handle corded phones, electrical appliances, bathtubs, water faucets or sinks. Telephone and electrical lines and metal pipes all conduct electricity.
* turn off air conditioning. Power surges can overload the compressure and cause damage.

* stay away from water. If you are swimming or boating get out of the water and to land immediately!
* Try to get inside a building or a car (not a convertible)
* find a low area away from trees, fences or poles
* stay away from natural lightning rods like golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles or camping equipment.
* if you are in the woods, find a low clump of trees but NEVER stand underneath a single large tree out in the open!
* make your body a small target by squatting to the ground with your hands on your knees, only making contact with the ground with your feet and DO NOT LIE DOWN!

If you are in a car:
* pull safely onto the shoulder of the road away from any trees that could fall on your car.
* stay inside the car and turn on emergency flashers until heavy rains subside
* avoid flooded roadways
* Myth: rubber tires will NOT protect your car from being struck by lightning! But, the steel frame of a hard-top will offer you increased protection if you are NOT touching any metal inside the car.

If someone is hit by lightning:
* call for help! Call 911 or your local Emergency number immediately
* first aid: if breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If there is no pulse and if you are trained in CPR begin. **it is not dangerous for you to touch a person who has been struck by lightning. The person will not carry an electrical charge that can shock others.

Other tips:
* watch out for fallen power lines
* if possible, check on neighbors who may need special assistance
* continue monitoring news for updates

For more information please visit the following sites:

New Jersey Office of Emergency Management