In 2022, there was a record number of deaths from lightning in India. Data from the Ministry of Earth Sciences showed that between January and November 2022, up to 907 people were killed by lightning strikes, making it one of the leading causes of death from natural disasters in the country. This was also India’s highest death toll from lightning in the last 14 years!
The deadly attacks have continued ever since, with morbid reports emerging from Jammu-Kashmir in the north, Tamil Nadu in the south, and every state and territory in between. And with monsoon season on the horizon, these strikes will only become more frequent in the coming months.
In light of this expected increase, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued an advisory listing all the ways to protect yourself from lightning and thunderstorms. Below we talk about these measures and give some tips from NOAA.
How to prepare for stormy weather
Be on the lookout for darkening skies and stronger winds first. Rising hairs on the nape of the neck could be an indication that a lightning strike is imminent. Follow weather forecasts and local media for updates and alerts. As soon as the arrival of a thunderstorm is imminent, go indoors – it is better to stay at home and avoid traveling.
Close windows and doors and unplug all unused electronic devices (to isolate them from the main power supply, which could cause power spikes during a thunderstorm). Remove all logs and other debris that could cause a plane crash and secure all items outside your home (e.g. furniture, trash cans, etc.).
The safest place during a thunderstorm is usually a large enclosed building with water and power lines. In addition to your private residence, this can also be shopping centers, office buildings, schools, etc.
When lightning strikes the building, the wires and cords can conduct electricity more efficiently than a human body. However, if you can’t see nearby buildings, a closed metal vehicle such as a car, van, or school bus could be a good alternative.
How to react to lightning and thunderstorms
Stay away from running water during lightning strikes, as lightning can propagate along metal pipes. Keep away from doors, windows, fireplaces, stoves, bathtubs, or other electrical conductors, and avoid using corded phones and other electrical devices that may conduct lightning.
When outdoors, seek shelter immediately and avoid trees, metal structures, and metal sheet structures. A low-lying area would be ideal, but make sure the location you choose cannot be flooded.
Crouch with feet together and bow your head to make yourself a smaller target. Don’t lie flat on the floor or you’ll be a bigger target.
If you are driving during a storm, stay in your vehicle until help arrives or the storm passes (the metal roof will protect you if you don’t touch any metal inside). Windows should be active. Make sure you park away from trees and power lines.
If you’re traveling with bicycles, motorbikes, or farm vehicles, dismount – they might attract lightning – and find shelter. And if you’re boating or swimming, land as soon as possible and seek shelter.
Finally, if you do encounter someone struck by lightning, get them to the hospital and, if possible, provide basic first aid. People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely. Check for broken bones, hearing and vision loss. A victim of a lightning strike can suffer burns of varying degrees. Therefore, check the point of impact and the point where the current left the body for signs of injury.
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