Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 19-25


Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

June 17, 2005

 

Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 19-25

According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, lightning kills more people in the United States annually than any other weather event—except for flash floods—including tornadoes and hurricanes. Nationally, 31 people died from lightning strikes in 2004, and 280 were injured. Summer is the peak season for lightning.

The week of June 19-25 is recognized as “National Lightning Safety Awareness Week,” and the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management encourages residents to become familiar with the following lightning safety tips.

Before the storm:

  • Check weather forecasts before going outdoors.
  • Watch for signs of an approaching storm – distant lightning and darkening, towering clouds and strong winds that may signal a severe thunderstorm. When you hear a warning, take appropriate action.
  • Make sure you have a NOAA weather radio at your golf course, athletic field complex or any other outdoor venue, and one for your home.


When you hear thunder:

  • Immediately move inside a sturdy building or an automobile for greater protection. Avoid picnic or rain shelters.
  • Once inside a building, close all windows and outside doors. Stay off the telephone and away from electrical outlets and metal pipes.
  • If you cannot get to a building, seek shelter in a vehicle with a metal roof. Close all windows and doors and avoid touching any inside metal.

If you are caught outdoors and cannot get to a building:

  • Find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees or low brush.
  • If you are on the water, move to land immediately and find a low spot.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or 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. You want to make yourself the smallest possible target while minimizing your contact with the ground.

When to resume outdoor activities:

  • Wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder to return to your activities.

Lightning tends to strike the tallest objects, and solitary trees aren’t the only things to watch out for. Metal bleachers, fences, light poles or goal posts can carry the charge and shock anyone in its path. Lightning can also “splash” or “ricochet” off these objects and strike nearby people.

C. Douglas Bass, director of the Office of Emergency Management, reminds residents that if you are outside and can hear the sound of thunder, you are within range of a lightning strike. “A thunderstorm could be 15 miles away or it might not be raining at all, but it’s still possible to get hit by deadly lightning,” says Bass. “As a general rule, you should wait 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder before resuming any outdoor activities.”

For additional information on lightning safety, contact the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management at 703-324-2362, TTY 711, or visit the emergency information page on the county’s Web site at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency or the National Weather Service lightening safety Web page at www.nws.noaa.gov/om/wcm/lightning/index.htm.

Residents may also want to register for free severe weather alerts from the county’s Community Emergency Alert Network, or CEAN, which sends National Weather Service alerts to any registered pager, cell phone or e-mail account. You can register for the CEAN online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/cean.

FAIRFAX COUNTY IS COMMITTED TO A POLICY OF NONDISCRIMINATION IN ALL COUNTY PROGRAMS, SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES AND WILL PROVIDE REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS UPON REQUEST. TO REQUEST SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS, CALL 703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935. PLEASE ALLOW FIVE WORKING DAYS IN ADVANCE OF EVENTS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE NECESSARY ARRANGEMENTS.

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