ALACHUA COUNTY, FL -The Alachua County Department of Public Safety encourages everyone to recognize and respect the dangers of being struck by lightning. June 23-27, 2008 is National Lightning Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Weather Service. Lightning injures and kills, on a yearly average, as many people as tornados do. But, because it affects a limited number of people at a time, it doesn't get as much publicity or respect-in terms of safe behaviors. If you can hear thunder, you could be struck by lightning. Lightning can travel up to 10 miles away from where it is raining. Some people survive being struck by lightning, but they tend to have life long disabilities from it.
Joey Malphurs, Public Education Coordinator, says, "The safest course of action is to get indoors as soon as thunder is heard."
A safe building is an enclosed permanent structure with electrical wiring and plumbing in the walls. If the building is hit by lightning, the electricity will travel through the wires or plumbing into the ground. Stay away from landline phones, water sources, windows, doors, concrete floors or walls and electronic devices during the storm. A picnic shelter, greenhouse or open sided building is not a safe space during a storm. A hard topped car with the doors and windows closed is the next safest spot, if no safe building is available. Stay in the car, do not use electronic devices and don't touch any metal surfaces in the car. Wait 30 minutes after you last hear thunder before going back outdoors.
If attending an outdoor group event and the weather service has predicted possible thunderstorms, plan ahead of time what you and your group will do should a storm approach. If you are caught outdoors without a safe location to get to, stay away from tall, isolated objects, metal objects, trees, and open shelters. Find a low spot in the ground and crouch down on the balls of your feet. Make yourself as small as possible. If in a group of people, have everyone spread out at least 15 feet from everyone else to prevent lightning from traveling from one person to another. If you are on a bicycle or motorcycle, leave your vehicle and find a low spot in the ground without standing water to crouch on.
Remind your children, "If thunder roars, get indoors."
For more information, contact the Alachua County Department of Public Safety at 352-384-3101 or visit: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/index.htm