Although summer brings with it exciting adventures, time with family and friends and more, it also brings thunderstorms. Nothing can ruin a great day outside like a thunderstorm, especially if lightning is involved. That is why the National Weather Service conducts an annual campaign called Lightning Safety Week that has run through the first week of summer every year since 2001. The goal of Lightning Safety Week is to bring awareness to one of the most frequent, yet underrated, storm-related killers — lightning.
Each day of Lightning Safety Week shines a light on a different aspect of lightning safety. Knowledge is power, and a greater understanding of what lightning is and why it is so dangerous is key to protecting yourself and your home against it.
An Introduction to Lightning:
The first part of Lightning Safety Week offers an introduction to lightning safety. If you are outdoors, there is no safe place to be during a lightning storm. If you hear thunder, then that means that you are in immediate danger, because lightning can strike from over 15 miles away. A good rule to live by is that, “When thunder roars, go indoors.”
This is because the two most dangerous times for lightning strikes are just before a storm begins and just after a storm passes. That’s why it’s important to get inside when you see a storm approaching and stay indoors until at least 30 minutes after the storm has stopped. The best ways to avoid storms and lightning are to plan ahead or to sign up for an advanced lightning alert system.
If, for some reason, you cannot get indoors for a storm, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of lightning strikes:
Avoid open fields and hilltops.
Stay away from tall, isolated trees or trees in general.
If you are in a forest, stand near a lower group of trees.
Also stay away from other tall objects.
Stay away from water and wet items like ropes, fences and poles, as these are all excellent conductors of electricity.
What to Do Once Inside:
The second half of Lightning Safety Week focuses on what you can do to guard yourself against lightning strikes once inside. Even though you’re indoors, you’re still not completely safe from lightning. According to the National Weather Service, a safe shelter is a place with electricity and/or plumbing or a metal-topped vehicle with the doors closed. You can further protect yourself while indoors by doing the following:
Stay off corded phones.
Don't touch electrical equipment such as computers or TVs. You can use remote controls safety.
Stay away from exterior windows and doors that might contain metal components leading from outside your home to the inside.
Stay off balconies, porches and out of open garages or car ports.
Protect your pets: Dog houses are not safe shelters.
Protect Your Property:
Now that you’ve taken the proper steps to safeguard yourself and your family, you’ll want to make sure that your electronics are protected as well. There is no way to prevent lightning strikes on your home or shelter, but there are ways to protect your house in the case of a lightning strike. Lightning rods are designed to protect a building from lightning strikes by intercepting the strike and providing a conductive path for the electrical discharge to follow. At the end of the path, the energy is dispersed safely into the ground.
Lightning rods can protect your structure from a direct lightning strike, but it is also important to have a system in place to protect against harmful electrical surges caused by summer storms. This is where surge protectors can save your electronics or appliances from voltage spikes.
Surge Protector Guide:
A surge protector safeguards electronics from the harmful effects of power surges and voltage spikes. Surge protectors have the ability to absorb and dissipate the power of a surge so that connected equipment is shielded from the surge. Here is a great video that explains what surge protectors do:
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right surge protection:
- Know Your Joules — The more Joules your surge protector is rated for, the more protected your devices will be. A unit like this one will offer you a higher Joule protection rating.
- A Power Strip is Not a Surge Protector — It’s important to know that a power strip simply turns one outlet into more outlets while a surge protector actually safeguards your electronics.
- Know Your Electronics — It’s important to consider what you’ll be plugging into your surge protector and buy a unit that has ample space to plug in all of your equipment. You can even get surge protectors with USB ports.
- Surge Protectors Need to be Replaced — As surge protectors take on voltage spikes, they will eventually become less effective. Be sure to monitor the level of protection of your surge protection. This can be done by buying a unit with a “protected” indicator light to let you know if it needs to be replaced.