Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lightning Safety Week: June 23 - 29

It wasn't too long ago that I spent some time writing about lightning safety as part of a few blogs that were intended to help you be prepared for many of the most common summer phenomena.  The National Weather Service (NWS) lightning safety week purposefully corresponds with the time of year that lightning storms are most prevalent.  According to the NWS 54 people are killed annually by lightning, while many more are injured.  There have already been seven (7) fatalities in 2013.

The original blog that I wrote just over a month ago spent time introducing you to lightning safety specific emergency action plan resources (from the NATA), connecting you with lightning strike density statistics, keys to keeping yourself safe or getting to safety if you should get caught in a storm, and some basic first aid tips for strike victims.  I am bringing this blog to the forefront again because the information it presents is important.  In my experience as an athletic trainer I feel that sometimes people do not take this particular weather phenomenon seriously and seek shelter immediately.  I am writing to urge you to take thunderstorms and lightning seriously and respond accordingly to protect yourself and whoever you may be with.

The most concerning thing about a lightning is that it can injure you without having to be directly struck by the lightning bolt.  There are 5 mechanisms of injury associated with lightning:

  1. Direct strike:  Lightning strikes person directly
  2. Contact injury:  Victim touches an object that is part of lightning's pathway
  3. Side flash (splash):  Lightning arcs from struck object to a nearby object
  4. Ground current (step voltage):  Lightning spreads peripherally through the ground
  5. Blunt trauma:  Injury results from an object that is thrown through the air during lightning strike

This is why it is important to understand what a proper safe area is and be sure you're protected.  Additionally, this is also why you shouldn't talk on the phone, take a shower or use other electronic devices during a storm.

Should you be a lightning strike victim and be fortunate enough to survive the range of long-term "side effects" of being struck is wide.  According to NWS, Medscape and other resources some long-term health concerns include:
  • chronic pain syndromes
  • neuromuscular pain
  • headaches that are not relieved with OTC medications
  • depression
  • dizziness
  • sleep disorders
  • hypertension
  • congestive heart failure
  • seizures
  • cataracts
  • many, many more
To read real stories from lightning strike survivors, click HERE.


These are just a few recent articles regarding published stories in the United States.  More recently two people died in Russia (mother and child) and two more in Bangladesh.  Again, know your lightning EAP wherever you are and take the warnings from your AT seriously when directed to seek safety.  Doing so could mean the difference between being safe and risking significant long-term complications or even death.  As lightning safety week approaches, make a plan and stick to it as you enjoy the summer season.  Lightning can strike anywhere.... at the family reunion, at the weekend sports tournament, during the big outdoor concert or camping trip.  Be prepared.

Submitted by Heather L. Clemons, MS, MBA, ATC

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