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Lightning: Outdoor Safety
Have Fun, but Be Safe
Most lightning deaths and injuries in the United States occur during the summer months and during the afternoon hours when both lightning and outdoor activities reach a peak. During the summer, people take advantage of the warm weather to enjoy a multitude of recreational activities. To be safe, those who are boating, swimming, fishing, bicycling, golfing, jogging, walking, hiking, camping, working, or just outside in their back yards need to take the appropriate actions in a timely manner when thunderstorms approach.
Being outdoors when thunderstorms are nearby is risky. There is simply no safe place outside any time a thunderstorm is nearby.
In 2010, all lightning fatalities occurred outdoors. More than one quarter of the victims were under or near a tree that was struck by lightning.
In addition, about one quarter of the fatalities involved people in their own or neighboring yards. Water-related fatalities also accounted for almost one quarter of the deaths.
To minimize your threat of being struck by lightning while outdoors, it is important to know when the lightning threat begins to increase significantly and when the threat is reduced to minimal levels.
In general, the threat begins well before people think it begins, and ends well after people think it ends. Unfortunately, it's this lack of understanding that accounts for many lightning casualties.
No one can completely eliminate the risk of being struck by lightning. But by using some basic rules, you can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a lightning casualty.
Organized outdoor activities
Make sure in advance that the officials in charge of activities you are involved in have and follow a specific lightning safety plan. Don't be afraid to ask.
Coaches, umpires, referees, or camp counselors should stop activities early, so that there is sufficient amount of time for the participants and spectators to get to a safe place before the lightning threat becomes significant.
If substantial buildings are not available for shelter, cars and buses may provide the best protection. But be sure the windows are closed and that the occupants avoid contact with any metal in the vehicle.
Don't forget your outside pets
Dog houses are not safe. Dogs which are chained to metal chains or wire runners are particularly vulnerable to a nearby lightning strike.
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