This article was first published in Dawn Magazine on 26th June 2016
This monsoon, the met department has forecast heavy rains all over the country. And with heavy rains, there are increased chances of lightning strikes, which are known to have killed people both in Pakistan and abroad. It is important to take precautions to stay safe during a storm.
The first rule to surviving a lightning storm or an ordinary rainstorm is to avoid the outdoors, although even when indoors there are certain precautions that need to be taken. Here are some key points:
Caught out outdoors in a lightning storm:
— Move immediately to a solid shelter. The shelter should be of a solid structure, with wiring and plumbing that could ground the electrical charge, taking it away from the occupants. Bus shelters, roadside shacks or any structure that has no wiring and plumbing would not keep you safe from lightning.
— Do not stand under tall trees or even lamp posts, as lightning strikes tall objects.
— Get to lower ground as quickly as you can (if you’re on the roof get to the ground level, if you’re out on the hills then move to a ravine).
— If you are in an open space where you are the tallest object, such as a cricket field or a soccer pitch, then move to shelter immediately.
— If you are in your vehicle then stay in it, if you can’t get to a covered area. Roll up the windows, switch off the engine and do not touch any metal part in the vehicle. If you’re in a soft top vehicle, then get out and move to a safe building. (Rickshaws and convertibles aren’t secure).
— Wearing rubber shoes (wellingtons) and gloves offer no protection from lightning strikes. They are mandatory if manipulating electrical appliances or wires in the rain, but only if they aren’t wet from the inside.
— If you cannot seek shelter and a lightning strike is imminent, reduce possible harm by doing the following:
- Take up the squat position, resting on the balls of your feet.
- Cover your ears with your hands (minimise hearing loss).
- Close your eyes (it prevents exposure to bright flashes that are harmful for the eyes.
- Put your head between your knees.
- Do not lie flat on the ground, you must minimise contact with the ground as electrical charge travels across the ground.
— Do not forget to bring in any pets that maybe outdoors.
— Move as far away from any water body as possible (swimming pools, lakes, sea, etc).
— If caught in the open with two or more people, then spread up to 50 feet apart. In case of a person getting struck, it reduces the chance of others getting jolted too.
— If you are carrying any metal object with you, keep it 25 to 30 metres away from you.
TIP 1: You can sense a lightning strike is imminent if your hair stand on end. Metal objects may start vibrating.
TIP 2: You can predict how close the lightning is in good visibility. If the time between the lightning flash and the thunder is less than 30 seconds apart then take shelter immediately or assume the squat position.
Indoors during a lightning storm:
— Do not unplug any device or operate any electrical outlets during the storm, as the electrical charge could flow through you at that point in case lightning strikes.
— Avoid all windows, staying in the middle of the room as much as possible. Lightning does pass through windows and even if it doesn’t it can shatter the glass.
— Do not use any wired object such as a landline phone, a cabled internet device, or TV.
— Do not use taps, shower, baths tubs or sinks (washroom, kitchen).
— Laying on the bed, sitting on the sofa, or chairs do not pose a risk unless you are using a phone or a gadget that has a wire and is connected to an outlet.
— Immediately provide medical attention to a victim of lightning strike. The victim doesn’t carry any electrical charge; therefore, anyone assisting will not suffer a shock either.
— Move the victim to a safe location as lighting can strike in the same place.
- If the victim’s not breathing but has a pulse, then perform mouth to mouth resuscitation.
- If there’s no pulse then perform CPR.
- If the victim is breathing and has a pulse then assess for other physical injuries: burns, loss of hearing or sight, broken bones.
— Do not remove any of the burnt clothing.
— Shock treatment must also be carried out by laying the person on their back with the head slightly lower than the rest of the body. Lift the legs slightly and support.
Remember: Do not leave your shelter 30 minutes after the last thunder clap. Lightning strikes tall objects, therefore street lamps, trees, your TV or dish antenna, overhead water tank, anything that’s taller than other structures around you are prone to it. Therefore, stay away or avoid use of anything connected to these objects, even if you are indoors.
With any rain storm it is important to:
— Take shelter but choose wisely.
— Do not use electrical or corded appliances.
— When stepping out, be vary of fallen objects, loosely hung wires, objects that may have been displaced that could fall due to vibrations from a simple action of closing / opening a door.
— Watch out for slippery surfaces.
— Avoid even small puddles as they may have an electrical charge from fallen wires.
— Use a torch.
— Do not immediately use the gas connection without first checking for possible leaks (especially if you have geysers).
— Always account for everyone, whether in your home, office, or if you are at different locations. Ensure everyone is aware that all are well.