Prevent the harmful effects of lightning

The Ministry of Health and Wellness is reminding the public that lightning strikes are harmful to health and are potentially fatal. 

A lightning bolt is a million times more powerful than household current, carrying up to 100 million volts of electricity. When someone is struck by lightning, an electrical shock occurs that can cause burns and even stop the person’s heart or breathing. 

Published data indicate that globally over 20,000 people are affected by lightning and several thousand die due to lightning-related injuries every year. 

Increasing population density, increasing lightning density from climate variability and hilly terrains play important roles in the number of lightning deaths. The risk to Jamaicans is, therefore, significant.

Over the last four weeks, Jamaicans have been seriously affected by lightning strikes.

Climatologist have warned that due to climate change, the likelihood of being struck by lightning has increased, partly due to thunderstorms becoming more explosive as a consequence of warming temperatures. 

This year, extremely high temperatures have been recorded for Jamaica. As we enter the latter part of the hurricane season, thunderstorms are more likely to occur and any thunderstorm is a potential killer since they generate lightning. This increases the frequency of occurrence of lightning strikes as lightning is one of the weather-related natural disasters normally associated with thunderstorms.

The public is, therefore, advised to take precautionary measures to reduce the likelihood of being struck by lightning. 

  • Pay attention to weather conditions and forecasts, allowing time to plan for threatening weather and to react appropriately. 
  • If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Lightning can strike the same place twice. Some lightning bolts can travel many miles horizontally from a storm before they strike the surface.
  • The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside a well-constructed building away from conducting elements, such as water and electrical wires or devises.

 

While inside, avoid the use of electrical devices, such as computers and irons, and stay out of the bath or shower.

If outside, the most dangerous place to be is at the highest point or underneath an object, such as a tree that represents a relative high point on the terrain. Also:

  • Stay away from water. Halt recreational activities in or on water and wait at least 30 minutes before resuming, avoiding plumbing or electrical circuits.
  • If you feel your hair begin to stand on end, crouch down as low as you can to the ground and with only the toes of your feet contacting the ground. Also, close your eyes and cover your ear lobes.
  • If you take shelter in a vehicle, roll the windows up and do not touch the outer frame of the car. Do not take refuge in a convertible car, even if the top is on.

 

Finally, a person struck by lightning needs immediate attention. Lightning victims are safe to touch. Bystanders should not hesitate to save a life by calling for help. Telephones and cellphones do not increase the risk of a lightning strike. Often, a person who is struck by lightning can be revived by Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). A trained rescuer should administer CPR.