Playing It Safe During An Electrical Storm

Proper storm safety measures are vital to avoiding injury from lightning strikes during a thunderstorm. When a thunderstorm roars, go indoors.  As the thunderstorm approaches, residents should take several measures to avoid injury or damage from a lightning strike.

  • Unplug appliances.  To avoid damage from a lightning strike, unplug all appliances – even those that are connected to a surge protector. Surge protectors are often ineffective in the event of a direct or near-direct lightning strike.
  • Move cars into the garage or away from trees.  If a garage is available, park the car(s) inside to avoid damage from hail, downed tree limbs or wind-blown signs and debris.  If no garage is available try to relocate the car to a location that is out in the open to prevent damage from downed trees or limbs.
  • Stay away from water and pipes.  If a lightning bolt strikes nearby, the electricity can travel through water pipes.  Prevent electrocution, by avoiding the sink, toilet, shower and bath tub.
  • Don’t use the telephone.  Lightning strikes can send a surge of electricity traveling through phone lines. Be sure to have a fully- charged cell phone available.
  • Stay away from windows.  There have been many cases involving people who have been struck by lighting while standing near a window.  A downed tree or limb could come crashing through a window, resulting in serious injury for anyone standing nearby.
  • Remain in an interior room during a severe thunderstorm.  Some severe thunderstorm systems have been known to produce tornadoes. Bring children and pets into an interior room or hallway. The goal should be to place as many walls as possible between the residents and the outdoors.
  • Have a battery-operated radio or TV within arms reach.  This will enable residents to stay informed about any life-threatening developments, such as a tornado

If you think your house was struck by lightning

  • Make sure everyone is accounted for and immediately evacuate the house.
  • Check all around the interior and exterior to make sure that it did not start a fire. If you smell or see smoke, use your cell phone to call 911.  The fire department is dispatched in all cases of lightning strikes. The fire department will assess the damage and use thermal imaging cameras to make sure there are no fires within the walls.

If your house was struck by lightning

  • Call the insurance company.  Check with the insurance agent before you discard any items you plan to claim as damaged. Find out what is covered and what is needed to file a claim.
  • Call an electrician.  Have the electrician check the entire house including all the appliances, wall outlets, outside receptacles, attic fans, doorbell and garage door opener. Damage may be random; some items may be harmed, others may be spared.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 100,000 thunderstorms occur each year in the U.S., with lightning striking more than 30 million points on the ground. The chances of a U.S. home being struck by lightning is one in two hundred, and the insurance industry estimates 6.5% of all property/casualty claims are related to lightning strikes.

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