When summer thunderstorms strike, the best way to stay out of danger is to plan ahead, local officials said.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service are warning that “when thunder roars, go indoors,” as part of national Lightning Safety Awareness Week.
In the past 30 years, lightning has killed an average of 55 people annually in the U.S. and injures about 1,000, according to National Weather Service data.
Gilbert Sebenste, Northern Illinois University meteorologist, said roughly half of all people who die from lightning strikes are golfers. Bikers and joggers also are susceptible.
“... The people who are at most risk are obviously the people who are outdoors,” Sebenste said.
DeKalb Interim Fire Chief Eric Hicks said it’s rare that someone is struck by lightning – it’s happened only twice in his 24 years in DeKalb – but it’s important to keep in mind the rules for staying safe during storms.
If thunder can be heard, lightning is close enough to strike, Sebenste said.
During storms, water, high ground and open spaces should be avoided, Hicks said. Also stay away from metal objects such as electric wires, fences, machinery, motors or power tools. Try to stay at least 15 feet away from other people.
Being underneath canopies, rain shelters or near trees is unsafe. Sebenste said the best shelter can be a vehicle, which offers more protection than a house at times. Don’t touch anything that grounds to the outside such as the radio or steering column.
If indoors, stay away from doors and windows, Hicks said. Don’t use the telephone and turn off, unplug and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools and TV sets because lightning can strike exterior electric and phone lines.
Taking a shower or using running water also is unsafe. When lightning strikes, it tries to ground itself, Sebenste said. If it hits a water pipe, the lightning can electrify the pipe and water; those using water could be electrocuted.
Hicks said those struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge, and first-aid procedures should be administered to a victim. He also said people should call 911 or send for help.
The best way to stay safe is get out of harm’s way before a storm arrives, Sebenste said.
There is a small chance for storms Thursday night heading into Friday.