Thunderstorms are an awe inspiring display of natural power. The intense rain, the crash of thunder, and the unmistakable flash of lightning all can be breathtaking. However, these natural phenomena can be somewhat dangerous as well. Lighting is a form of electrical discharge, and the amount of energy released can be immense. Thankfully, there are things you can do to stay safe during a thunderstorm.
- If you are outside, you should do what you can to stay safe. Outside is a pretty bad place to be during a thunderstorm, as there is nothing to protect you from the violence of the storm. First, move to the lowest point that you can find. Typically, lightning will arc to the highest point available, as this is the path of least resistance for it. Do NOT go by trees, as they are likely to draw lightning to you. Stay away from metal objects, and water. Finally, stay away from other people. Clumping together can increase the risk that you are all injured by an unfortunate lightning strike. If you have a vehicle nearby, this can be a safe spot from the storm. A fully enclosed vehicle can act as an insulator, and even if the vehicle is struck, you are likely to be just fine. If you can stay in an enclosed vehicle for the duration of a storm, do so. However, you might not want to use the electrical features of the vehicle.
- If you are inside, you are relatively safe, but not completely. There are still some risks, and you should take precautions to ensure you do not become an unfortunate statistic. First, if you know a storm is coming, unplugging electronics can help to make things more safe. If there is a lightning strike onto a power line or which is near your household electrical system, there is the possibility of a strong power surge. This electrical energy will travel through the electrical system, and can cause extreme damage to anything it is connected to, including you. Therefore, unplugging electronic devices can not only prevent them from becoming damaged or overloaded, but also prevent you from becoming shocked. This electrical discharge can in extreme cases cause a fire, so keep an extinguisher handy. Finally, if you have a corded phone, you should not use it during the storm.
- If you see a downed power line, stay far away from it. Alternatively, if someone is incapacitated by the line, stay away from them. Unfortunately, if you move to assist, the electrical energy will flow through them and into you, and you will become another casualty. Do NOT attempt to move the power line or interact with it in any way. Call 911, and warn others about the danger. Similarly, if a downed power line falls onto your car, stay inside the vehicle if possible. It can insulate you from the electrical current, and keep you safe until help arrives.
- Water is something you should always stay away from in the case of an electrical emergency. Whether you are outside or inside, trying to stay dry and away from bodies of water can help to keep you safe. If you see a flooded area, stay away, as water is an incredibly good conductor of electricity. Similarly, things which you might not think will conduct electricity, such as wood or leather, might become quite conductive if they are wet. Being mindful of the dangers posed by water and wet equipment is an important part of staying safe.
- If your home is in an extremely exposed area, installing a lightning rod can help to keep you safe. Lightning rods serve as a path for lightning to strike before the energy is diverted safely to a ground. While these may not be worth the cost for most homeowners, if you do live in one of these exposed locations where there are frequent storms, it might save you money in the long run. The energy from the lightning will always follow the path of least resistance, and so it is quite possible for you to offer it a path which will not lead to a damaged home.
Remember, if a powerful thunderstorm is brewing, get prepared, and you will have a great chance of survival. Bring your pets inside, unplug your electronics, and make sure your family is sheltered in a safe location. This powerful natural phenomenon is quite dangerous, but can be appreciate safely if precautions are taken. Staying aware of the dangers which exist, and knowing how to avoid them can be key in ensuring that you and your family are safe. As always, if you worry that an electrical surge has damaged your electrical system, call an electrician quickly to come and take a look.