Be aware of the dangers of lightning strikes

The old saying is lightning never strikes the same place twice.

It’s not true, experts advise. But even if it was, one lightning strike is plenty enough to do damage.

This is Lightning Safety Awareness Week, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests people educate themselves on the dangers of not taking heed when a potential electrical storm threatens.

NOAA says that from 2004 to 2013, an average of 33 people were killed a year and 234 were injured by lightning strikes in the United States. Michigan had seven deaths attributed to lightning from 2005 to 2014 and Wisconsin had eight fatalities in the same period.

Most, according to FEMA, got hit because they ignored the warning signs or simply figured it couldn’t happen to them. They stayed on the water – fishing tops the list of activities for lightning strikes – or tried to finish that round of golf or softball game.

Granted, the odds of being struck by lightning are remote – 1 in 960,000 this year, 1 in 12,000 in a lifetime. But considering the potential consequences, is it worth playing those odds?

When the first sounds of thunder rumble in the distance, FEMA and the NOAA advise:

– If the time delay between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds, you are in danger.

– Get indoors – larger structures are best if available – and while inside don’t use a corded telephone, taking a shower, washing your hands, doing dishes, or having contact with conductive surfaces, including metal doors, window frames, wiring and plumbing.

– Water conducts electricity, so get out of and away from water during a storm.

– Avoid being in or near high places, isolated trees or other tall objects, open fields, unprotected gazebos, rain or picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, communications towers, flagpoles, light poles, bleachers, metal fences, convertibles or golf carts.

– When camping, set up in a valley, ravine or other low area.

– Tents and open-sided shelters don’t provide protection from the dangers of lightning – a woman died and two were injured in March when lightning hit a tent at a Louisiana music festival. If there isn’t a substantial building nearby, take shelter in your vehicle.

– Wait 30 minutes after the last lightning or thunder before going back outside. According to the NOAA, more than 50 percent of lightning deaths occur after the thunderstorm has passed.

– Anyone struck by lightning will need immediate medical attention. Call 911 and remember: lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to touch.

For more lightning safety tips, go to www.ready.gov/thunderstorms-lightning and www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.