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Some advice for staying safe when lightning threatens

Thunderstorms can develop quickly during the summer months, creating the danger of lightning strikes for those caught outdoors.

Today is Lightning Safety Awareness Day in Wisconsin, and ReadyWisconsin is urging everyone to learn more about what they can do to stay safe when lightning threatens.

“When thunderstorms are in the area, it’s important to remember that outside is the last place you want to be,” said Darrell L. Williams, Wisconsin Emergency Management administrator. “When you spot lightning or hear thunder, head indoors until the danger has passed.”

According to the National Lightning Safety Council, 17 people were struck and killed by lightning in the United States in 2020, while at least two people have been killed by lightning strikes in the U.S. so far this year. The majority of those killed were participating in outdoor recreational activities at the time they were struck. The most recent lightning-related death in Wisconsin came in Minocqua in September 2016.

Even if the sky directly overhead may be clear, lightning can travel several miles from the center of a storm. If thunder can be heard, lightning is close enough to strike nearby. The safest place to seek shelter is inside a sturdy, enclosed structure, such as a house.

Never seek cover under a tree. Get out of open areas and stay away from bodies of water, such as lakes or rivers. Even the inside of a car with a hard top is safer than being out in the open during a thunderstorm. If inside a vehicle, avoid touching metal surfaces.

If a person with you is struck by lightning, health officials advise to immediately dial 911 and start performing CPR. Don’t be afraid to touch the victim — the human body does not hold an electrical charge.

For more information on lightning safety, go to https://readywisconsin.wi.gov or follow ReadyWisconsin on Facebook at www.facebook.com/readywisconsin and Twitter at www.twitter.com/readywisconsin.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched the Ready national public service advertising campaign in February 2003 to prepare Americans on how to respond to emergencies, including natural and technological disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

ReadyWisconsin began in 2008 as part of the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs to be Wisconsin’s counterpart to the national campaign. It serves as a one-stop shop for emergency and disaster preparedness information and provides links to other relevant national, state, local, tribal and volunteer agencies.

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