Sunday, August 15, 2010

Being a Lightning Rod

Lately in these parts, a lot of discussion has been about what makes you more attractive to lightning, more likely to be injured or killed. Recent data indicates that human fatalities each year occur approximately half the time from the effects of the ground current (the human is not hit directly) while only about two to four percent occur when the human is the target. With ground current as the most likely culprit, you definitely want to limit your contact with the ground during a storm. The old "lightning position," huddled up on a non-conductive pad with your feet close together (although it has never been proven safer), is suggestive of being safer. If you are walking toward a safer spot with trekking poles, do not let them touch the ground during a storm. They may conduct ground current up into your body. Carry them in your hand and away from the ground or in your backpack. The old and basic principles of lightning safety still apply: look for the safest spot as soon as you start hearing thunder, stay out of the open, avoid being near large bodies of water, do not hang out beneath or even near tall isolated objects, and stay out of wet caves or overhangs. Look for low rolling hills or trees of approximately uniform height.


Greg Friese, MS, NREMT-P said...

I had the chance to attend a wonderful presentation by Dr. Marianne Cooper several years ago. One of the questions I asked was about the spread of ground current. I imagined it spreading from the point of contact in an expanding concentric circle. She replied that my assumption was incorrect in that ground current spread from the point of contact in an unpredictable number and direction of stepped leaders. Thus two people standing next to each other can be impacted by ground current differently. One struck and one not.

If you are moving towards relative safety as rapidly possibly and trekking poles help you get there faster I would say use the trekking poles. If carrying the trekking poles makes your progress slower I would say toss the poles and run!

In the end there is no safe place outdoors. If being outdoors is the only option move to a position of relative less risk, stay low, minimize contact with the ground, and hope for the best.

Michael Bresnahan said...

remember to spread out from the people you are with 100' or more from each other.

I just spent 2 weeks in VA at the National Scout Jamboree, we were lucky only had 2 storms come through during the 10 days and either were too bad so we just had to keep out of the rain no big deal