Out of respect for the family and friends of Nick Fagnano, we will dispense with my usual light-hearted “firedogisms” in this post. We wish the best for everyone who was affected by the recent thunder and lightning storm on Venice Beach.
The odds of being struck by lightning are roughly 300,000-600,000 to one. Unfortunately, that is little consolation to the family of a USC student who fell victim to a rare lightning storm that hit Venice Beach on Monday, July 28. When a large bolt struck the water, it injured 13 and killed 20-year-old Nick Fagnano, who was said to have been finished swimming for the day and merely rinsing off in the ocean. Fagnano’s tragic death is a good reminder to prepare for thunder and lightning, in order to #BESAFE.
Here are 10 little-known facts about thunderstorms and lightning:
- All thunderstorms are dangerous because every thunderstorm produces lightning, although the lightning produced is not always easily detectable.
- Dry thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are most prevalent in the western United States. In this type of thunderstorm, although falling raindrops evaporate; lightning can still reach the ground and could start wildfires.
- About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe (producing hail at least an inch or larger in diameter, with winds of 58 miles per hour or higher or which produce a tornado).
- On average in the U.S., lightning kills 51 people and injures hundreds more.
- While lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the U.S.
- Thunderstorms and lightning may occur singly or in clusters.
- Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of associated long-term, debilitating symptoms.
- Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period (anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour).
- Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development.
- Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
So how can you prepare for thunderstorms and lighting? First, learn the terminology so you will be able to act when warnings are issued:
Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Alerts you as to when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning – Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.
To prepare for an emergency of any kind, assemble an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. In the event of an impending thunderstorm, take these safety steps:
In Advance of the Storm:
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Shutter windows and close outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Unplug electronic equipment.
- Postpone outdoor activities.
During the Storm:
- Use a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
- Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
- Avoid contact with corded phones and devices including those plugged into electricity for recharging. Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are OK to use.
- Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners.
- Shelter inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are safer inside a vehicle than outside because the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection (provided you are not touching metal).
- Stay away from windows and doors, and off of porches.
- Do not lie on concrete floors.
- Don’t lean against concrete walls.
- Stay away from natural lightning rods such as tall, isolated trees in open areas.
- Steer clear of hilltops, open fields, the beach and boats on the water.
- Avoid contact with metal of any kind—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.
While following the above safety suggestions won’t guarantee your safety, careful preparation and planning will put you in a much safer position if thunder or lightning threaten you and your loved ones. When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, it saves lives.