Lightning strikes are no joke so take this threat seriously

  • Published
  • By Capt Nathan Broshear
  • 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs
I was watching the news the other night and I saw a video of several kids playing in the rain.
In the video, a lightning bolt hit the ground near the group, almost knocking them off their feet.
"Wow! That was close," the anchor said.
Close indeed -- those children were lucky to be alive.
We often joke about lightning strikes as an analogy for a sudden idea or an incident happening infrequently. One might think, "Lightning doesn't strike twice." In fact, lightning can strike twice ... or many times.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the government's leading authority on weather phenomena, there were 3,239 deaths and 9,818 injuries attributable to lightning during the 36-year period they studied. That's interesting, but the really "shocking" (I couldn't resist) part of the report is that casualty and damage events caused by lightning had little variation year to year.
In essence, weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes are devastating, but rare. Lightning, by comparison, is a constant, widespread and deadly event -- every year.
This is especially timely during the 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign. Deaths by lightning strikes peak during these months, with July as the No. 1 most deadly month.
These statistics aren't meant as some kind of scare tactic. During the 101 Critical Days of Summer, you'll hear statistics meant to help you think critically about your actions.
Summer is a time to relax, but you should never become complacent and ignore common-sense steps to protect yourself and your family from Mother Nature.
So what can you do to protect yourself from becoming a lightning statistic for the next NOAA study?
For starters, heed the warnings of safety staff and the base giant voice. Some bases have implemented computer-based "pop-up" warnings to alert staff of incoming storms. When you get the notification of "lightning within five," go inside.
But you can't depend on the military for every notification. When planning outdoor activities, check local weather reports or keep a weather-band radio handy. Weather awareness off-duty is a must. The NOAA study found weekends are when most lightning victims met their demise.
Don't let male hubris get in the way of weather safety. Listen up, tough guys: Males are killed by lightning 5.6 times more often than females, usually while trying to finish the big game or one last hole. Your ego will always lose out to voltage.
When the softball game is called off due to a summer thunderstorm, never wait out the weather under a tree. These tall, water-filled lightning rods are the preferred method for electricity to seek a ground. It's no surprise NOAA researchers found people involved in recreation and those seeking shelter under trees were statistically more likely to be casualties of lightning.
Golfers or people holding portable metal lightning rods in a vast open area where their own bodies are the tallest objects are also one of the top groups who became victims of lightning strikes.
Weather safety doesn't end with the 101 Critical Days of Summer. If you haven't incorporated lightning awareness into your safety training regimen, I encourage you to do so. All Airmen and their families are potential targets of this phenomenon ... and during the 101 Critical Days of Summer, lightning can strike at any moment.