I remember when I was young and foolish running outside with an umbrella and standing in a puddle barefoot tempting fate. Still to this day, I have not been struck by lightning. According to NBC via the National Weather Council, I will get struck my lightening sooner than I will win the Powerball.
So, why this topic now? Over the past few weeks while the Boy Scout National Jamboree has been taking place, there has been several weather shutdowns and three hikers in Glacier National Park were stuck. Along with these weather events, there have been flash floods and forest fires in and around Scout Summer Camps.
So, what should you do in case of an storm coming? The Guide to Safe Scouting has good tips on what to do and not do.
“In many parts of the country, Scouting activities in the outdoors will be at risk to thunderstorms and lightning strike potential. In a thunderstorm, there is no risk-free location outside.
First, to be prepared for your outdoor adventure, it is important to know the weather patterns of the area. Weather patterns on the Florida coast differ greatly from the mountains of New Mexico and the lakes of Minnesota or the rivers of West Virginia. In addition to patterns, monitor current weather forecasts and conditions of the area you plan to visit to modify your plans if needed.
The National Weather Service recommends that when the “Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! The only completely safe action is to get inside a safe building or vehicle.” When a safe building or vehicle is nearby, the best risk-reduction technique is to get to it as soon as possible. Move quickly when you:
- First hear thunder,
- See lightning, or
- Observe dark, threatening clouds developing overhead.
Stay inside until 30 minutes after you last hear the last rumble of thunder before resuming outdoor activities.
- Safe Building—one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls, and floor, and has plumbing or wiring. Examples of safe buildings include a home, school, church, hotel, office building, or shopping center.
- Safe Vehicle—any fully enclosed, metal-topped vehicle such as a hard-topped car, minivan, bus, truck, etc. If you drive into a thunderstorm, slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area. Do NOT leave the vehicle during a thunderstorm.
Risk Reduction (when no safe building or vehicle is nearby):
- If camping, hiking, etc., far from a safe vehicle or building, avoid open fields, the top of a hill, or a ridge top.
- Spread your group out 100 feet from each other if possible.
- Stay away from tall, isolated trees; flag poles; totem poles; or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
- If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low area, but avoid flood-prone areas. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
- Stay away from water, wet items (such as ropes), and metal objects (such as fences and poles). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity.
- If boating and you cannot get back to land to a safe building or vehicle: On a small boat, drop anchor and get as low as possible. Large boats with cabins, especially those with lightning protection systems properly installed, or metal marine vessels offer a safer but not risk-free environment. Remember to stay inside the cabin and away from any metal surfaces.
If lightning strikes, be prepared to administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) so that you can tend to lightning victims quickly (they do not hold an electrical charge). Take anyone who is a victim of a lightning strike or near-strike to the nearest medical facility as soon as possible, even if the person appears to be unharmed.”
There is also training at myscouting.org that deals with “Weather Hazards” that is supposed to be taken for all those Scout Units that camp. It’s good info even if your not in Scouting.
But what happens after the fact when your struck by lightning? What do you do? Many of the links above have explained that already. However, for the three victims of the Glacier National Pack Lightening Strike, they were lucky. Both 23- year females and the 11 year old male survived. But, it largely due to the quick thinking and help of bystanders and First Responders. Read their account here. It is pretty chilling to read their account.
Why is this important to me? First, everyone I think should be aware of their surroundings, prepared for what they are doing, and knowledgable in First Aid. I have taken First Aid, CPR, AED and Wilderness First Aid Training. I have a First Aid Kit and CPR Mask with me. But, what really brings it home to me, is this. My family and I were in Glacier National Park days before this and in that area. It was almost to the day that my daughter, Rachel, had a very huge accident.
Be Prepared. Get Training. Do you know what to do when it counts?