When thunder roars, go indoors

Summer is the peak season for lightning strikes. On average, 53 people are killed and hundreds are severely injured each year due to lightning.

To date in 2014, the National Weather Service reports seven people have died due to lightning-related injuries nationwide, including a 32-year-old man who died in downstate Pittsfield Township on June 18.

As Lightning Safety Awareness Week is observed, state officials remind residents to find a safe place as quickly as possible when a storm is near.

“No place is safe outside when a thunderstorm occurs,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Michigan’s deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. “People often wait far too long to get to a safe place when a storm approaches. The best way to be safe from lightning is to avoid the threat and immediately find an indoor shelter.”

To stay safe from lightning during a thunderstorm:

– Plan evacuation and safety measures. At the first sign of lightning or thunder, activate your emergency plan. Lightning often precedes rain, so do not wait for rain to begin before suspending activities. Although no place is absolutely safe from lightning, some places are much safer than others.

– Find suitable shelter immediately. The safest location during lightning activity is a large, enclosed building. The second-safest location is an enclosed metal topped vehicle, but not a convertible, bike or other topless or soft-top vehicle.

– Protect yourself indoors by avoiding water, doors, windows. Also, avoid using a corded device. Lightning could strike exterior wires, potentially causing shock or injury. Any item plugged into an electrical outlet may be a hazard.

– Do not resume outdoor activities until 30 minutes after the last observed lightning strike or thunder roar.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services advises the following if you are caught outdoors and no shelter is nearby:

– Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.

– If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.

– If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible, and minimize your contact with the ground.

– If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.

Injured persons do not carry an electrical charge and can be assisted safely. If qualified to do so, apply first aid procedures to a lightning victim. Call 911 or send for help immediately.