Toward the end of the day a storm appeared on the horizon and a low grumble of thunder echoed across the prairie. Pat, our guide, immediately told us to grab out stuff and head for the van. We all made some jokes but he started telling us that lightning could strike from several miles away, and that we should spread out and not run and that several people die from lightning strikes every day. He didn't care for our jokes about lightning.
This suddenly reminded me of when I was in an earthquake in Seattle and people kept saying things like, "SHOULDN'T WE RUN OUTSIDE?" Which, of course, you should not. Then I looked down at the street afterward and people were walking around looking up into the sky. As if the earthquake had somehow come from the sky.
I decided that -- as a service to all the other non-Coloradoans living in Fort Collins this summer -- I would publish the strange and unfamiliar rules of lightning as found at the National Lightning Safety Institute.
Personal Lightning Safety Tips
1. PLAN in advance your evacuation and safety measures. When you first see lightning or hear thunder, activate your emergency plan. Now is the time to go to a building or a vehicle. Lightning often precedes rain, so don't wait for the rain to begin before suspending activities.
2. IF OUTDOORS...Avoid water. Avoid the high ground. Avoid open spaces. Avoid all metal objects including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors, power tools, etc. Unsafe places include underneath canopies, small picnic or rain shelters, or near trees. Where possible, find shelter in a substantial building or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car, truck or a van with the windows completely shut. If lightning is striking nearby when you are outside, you should:
A. Crouch down. Put feet together. Place hands over ears to minimize hearing damage from thunder.
B. Avoid proximity (minimum of 15 ft.) to other people.
3. IF INDOORS... Avoid water. Stay away from doors and windows. Do not use the telephone. Take off head sets. Turn off, unplug, and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools, & TV sets. Lightning may strike exterior electric and phone lines, inducing shocks to inside equipment.
4. SUSPEND ACTIVITIES for 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder.
5. INJURED PERSONS do not carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely. Apply First Aid procedures to a lightning victim if you are qualified to do so. Call 911 or send for help immediately.
6. KNOW YOUR EMERGENCY TELEPHONE NUMBERS.
Teach this safety slogan:
"If you can see it, flee it; if you can hear it, clear it."