Protect Yourself From Lightning!
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN SWEDEN
AN AVERAGE lightning bolt may carry tens of millions of volts of electricity with a current of tens of thousands of amperes. In comparison, the typical electrical circuit in a home is usually rated at 15 amperes.* What can you do to minimize the risk of being hit by lightning? Note the following suggestions.
• If at all possible, go indoors. Even a car can offer good protection. What about being inside a tall building? A tall building with lightning rods can be a safe place. For example, the Empire State Building in New York City survives being struck by lightning some 25 times each year. However, it is best to avoid ungrounded structures with metal roofs and places near antennae and metal fences.
• Get away from open areas, such as lakes, fields, and golf courses. Lone, tall trees can be dangerous as well. If you are in an area with many trees, take shelter near the ones lowest in height. If the storm is dangerously near and you cannot move away from an open area, squat down on the ground and hug your knees. Do not lie down flat, as it is important that you provide as small a striking surface as possible.
• Even when indoors, you can take precautions. The following are a few suggestions: Try to avoid contact with electrical conductors, such as fireplaces and metal plumbing. It may be wise to stay out of the shower or the bathtub, and also try not to use the phone. Unplug computers, televisions, and other appliances, since they could be damaged if the house is struck.
• If someone is struck by lightning, it is vital to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at once. Professor Victor Scuka, who works at the High Voltage Research Department of the University of Uppsala, Sweden, says that in many cases victims have been resuscitated with CPR, even when they appeared to be dead. “But the treatment,” he warns, “must be administered immediately to avoid brain damage.”
If you are caught in a lightning storm, consider following the precautions just mentioned. Then you are unlikely to become a casualty of this awe-inspiring spectacle.
An ampere is a unit of electrical flow, the rate of current being used. Volts indicate the force of the current. See Awake! of February 22, 1985, pages 26-7.