NOAA launches new community-based lightning awareness program

Posted June 20, 2011, at 2:16 p.m.

Summer — it’s a time for a backyard barbeque, a trip to the beach and lots of outdoor fun, but it’s also a time when dangerous thunderstorms become more frequent.

Hundreds of people are struck by lightning each year, causing countless debilitating injuries and 55 deaths on average. The National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration and its lightning safety partners are working to reduce this number by urging the public, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!”

NOAA’s National Weather Service recently unveiled a new community-based volunteer preparedness program to increase awareness about the danger of lightning at outdoor recreation venues, like parks, concert arenas, and golf courses as well as open water locations such as swimming pools and beaches. The agency created lightning safety awareness signs that local communities can install at these public places to encourage people to go indoors when they hear thunder, according to a press release from NOAA.

This year, five people tragically have lost their lives so far from being struck by lightning, including a first responder who was helping tornado rescue efforts in Joplin, Mo.

“People understand the danger with lightning, but thunder needs to be recognized as the early warning for lightning — many still take risks that aren’t worth losing their life over,” said Donna Franklin, lightning safety program leader with the National Weather Service. “Nearly 85 percent of lightning victims are male, and this has been true since we began keeping records in 1959 — so it’s especially important that we teach young men to make wise decisions during thunderstorms. When people hear thunder, they need to immediately stop what they are doing and go inside.”

The National Weather Service was joined by Texas State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado to kick off Lighting Safety Awareness Week at a press conference in Austin on Friday, June 17.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a proclamation stating, “The greatest threat from lightning is to those who are outdoors during a storm. The majority of injuries and deaths from lightning strikes could be prevented if people followed this simple rule: When thunder roars, go indoors.”

To avoid being struck by lightning, the National Weather Service recommends that you:

  1. Get into a fully enclosed building or hardtop vehicle at the first rumble of thunder;
  1. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after the last thunder clap;
  2. Monitor the weather forecast when you’re planning to be outdoors;
  3. Have a plan for getting to safety in case a thunderstorm moves in;
  4. Do not use a corded phone during a thunderstorm unless it’s an emergency; unplugged cell phones are safe to use indoors;
  5. Keep away from plumbing, electrical equipment and wiring during a thunderstorm.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook , Twitter and our other social media channels.

On the Web:

Lightning Safety Awareness Campaign: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov

Lightning Awareness Toolkit: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/toolkit.htm

Texas Governor Proclamation: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/Lightning/lightningProc.pd

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