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State Fire Marshal’s Office provides tips on lightning safety

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | 06:33am

NASHVILLE, TN – As spring storms roll through Tennessee, the State Fire Marshal's Office is reminding residents to keep safety in mind when lightning is imminent.

"Lightning strikes can cause fires. As the spring’s warmer weather gives rise to storm activity, we want Tennesseans to know what the risks and precautions are,” State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said. "It is important to monitor weather conditions and get to a safe place before the climate becomes threatening."

According to the National Weather Service, each year lightning causes about 4,400 home structure fires, 12 fire-related deaths and $1 billion in damages. Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall. Because of this, many lightning deaths occur ahead of storms or after storms seemingly have passed.

The following tips can help greatly reduce the risk posed by lightning:

Outdoor safety

  • If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Look for shelter inside a home, large building, or a hard-topped vehicle right away. Do not go under tall trees for shelter. There is no place outside that is safe during a thunderstorm. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before leaving your shelter.
  • Stay away from windows and doors.
  • If you are in or on open water, go to land and seek shelter immediately.
  • If you feel your hair stand on end, that means lightning is about to strike. Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground. This is a last resort when a building or hard-topped vehicle is not available.
  • If a person is struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 and get medical care immediately. Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge; attend to them immediately. Check their breathing, heartbeat and pulse. They might need CPR to be administered.

Indoor safety

  • Unplug appliances and other electrical items, such as computers, and turn off air conditioners. If you are unable to unplug them, turn them off. Stay off corded phones, computers, and other
  • electronic equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity or plumbing. Avoid washing your hands, bathing, doing laundry or washing dishes.
  • As always, your home should have smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
  • For the best in fire protection, consider the installation of home fire sprinklers. Sprinklers can contain and may even extinguish a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive on the scene.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube



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