It’s Colorado Lightning Safety Awareness Week — here are some tips
EAGLE COUNTY — Outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm. Each year, nearly all people in the United States who are injured or killed by lightning were involved in an outdoor activity. They were struck while working outside, were at or participating at an outdoor sporting event, or were boating or fishing. Other examples include people struck while they were hiking, mowing the lawn or simply going to or from their vehicle.
Unfortunately, there is no place outside that is safe from lightning. The only safe place to be when lightning is occurring is either inside a substantial building or an enclosed car or truck.
Here are some important things to remember before venturing outdoors:
• An informed decision will help you avoid being in an area where lightning is expected to occur. Before heading out, get an updated forecast. Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, check National Weather Service web sites, go to your favorite broadcast or print media source or access your favorite weather apps on your cell phone for the latest forecast.
• In Colorado, it is important to remember that thunderstorms typically develop in the mountains after 11 a.m. So it is best to plan your climbing or hiking trip so that you are coming down the mountain by late morning.
• If thunderstorms are in the forecast, then consider planning an alternate indoor activity or, if you still plan to be outside, then make a plan which will allow you to quickly get to a safe shelter if a storm should develop.
• Once you are outside, keep up-to-date on the weather via your smart phone or portable NOAA weather radio receiver. Check for updated forecasts. There are now several smart phone apps you can purchase that show you real-time lightning activity in your area. Do not forget to simply look around you to make sure storms are not developing in your vicinity.
If you’re caught out …
If you are outside, such as a park, a lake or an outdoor sporting event, then know where the nearest safe location can be accessed. A safe location is any substantial building. A substantial building is a structure which is fully enclosed and has electrical wiring and plumbing.
In addition, any enclosed hard-topped car or truck also offers excellent protection from a lightning strike.
Most people who were outdoors and were injured or killed by lightning had access to a nearby safe shelter. When you hear thunder or see lightning, it is important for you, and your family, to act quickly.
Avoid shelters that are not safe from lightning, such as picnic shelters, bullpens, any type of tent or any other small buildings that are open to the elements. Never get beneath a tree when a thunderstorm is nearby or overhead.
If there’s no shelter …
At times, no safe shelter is nearby. This situation typically occurs to people who are hiking or camping in the backcountry. In this scenario, there is not much you can do to reduce your risk from being struck by lightning. The best thing to do is move away from tall isolated objects, such as trees. Stay away from wide open areas. Stay as low as possible with your feet close together if lightning is nearby. If you are with a group of people, then spread out. That way, if someone is struck by lightning, the others can offer first aid. If camping in the backcountry, then place your tent in a low area away from tall, isolated trees.
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