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Don't let lightning catch you off guard

File Photo

File Photo

Editor's Note: This story is the third in a series that runs through Friday on how to prepare for severe weather.

CONYERS -- Lightning is a deadly "by-product" of thunderstorms which are very common in Georgia, particularly in the spring and summer. Lightning kills an average of 100 people a year throughout the United States. Statistics show that on the average, lightning kills more people in the United States every year than tornadoes, floods or hurricanes. It occurs mostly during the warmer months of June through September.

Don't be caught off guard by these storms. When outdoors, be aware of the most current local weather forecasts. Always stay alert for signs of approaching thunderstorms. Lightning is nature's warning signal that a thunderstorm is in its most violent state; seek shelter immediately.

Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington, director of the Conyers-Rockdale County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), offers the following information on the basic safety rules and precautions about thunderstorms and lightning:

Before Lightning Strikes:

Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.

If a person can hear thunder, they are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Seek shelter immediately.

Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for the latest weather forecasts.

When a Storm Approaches:

Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.

Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of a structure being struck by lightning.)

Avoid taking a bath or shower or running water for any purpose.

Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job.

Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will help prevent glass from shattering inside.

If Caught Outside:

If in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.

If boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.

Protection Outside:

Go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles or metal objects. Make sure the place is not subject to flooding.

Be a very small target! Squat low to the ground. Place hands on knees with head between them. Be the smallest target possible.

Do not lie flat on the ground.

After the Storm Passes:

Stay away from storm-damaged areas.

Listen to the radio or television for information and instructions.

If Someone is Struck by Lightning:

People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely.

Call for help. Get someone to dial 9-1-1.

The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned, both where they were struck and where the electricity left their body. Check for burns in both places. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing or eyesight.

Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries. Learn first aid and CPR by taking an American Red Cross first-aid and CPR course; call your local Red Cross chapter for class schedules and fees.

For more information, visit these Web sites: www.gema.ga.gov, www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/ or www.ready.ga.gov.