Did you know that all thunderstorms produce lightning and lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall?
Many deaths from lightning occur ahead of the storm because people wait to the last minute before seeking shelter.
According to the National Weather Service, 28 people were killed by lightning last year. Hundreds more were struck and survived, suffering life-long injury and or permanent disability.
If you are outdoors and see lightning, move indoors to a completely enclosed building or into a hard-topped vehicle and close the windows.
Avoid being in or near high places and open fields, isolated trees, unprotected gazebos, car ports, pavilions, tents, shelters, baseball dugouts, flagpoles, light poles, metal or wood bleachers, metal fences, and water.
Don't hold on to metal items such as golf clubs, umbrellas or tools.
To determine how far a thunderstorm is from you, use the "30-30 Rule."
When you see lightning, count the number of seconds that pass until you hear thunder. If you hear thunder within 30 seconds of seeing lightning, the storm is within six miles.
Seek shelter immediately.
Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before leaving shelter.
If you are at home when a storm is expected, unplug major or unnecessary appliances such as televisions and air-conditioners, because power surges can damage appliances beyond repair. Avoid using corded phones or any electrical appliances.
Lightning can enter your home as a direct strike, through wires or pipes that extend outside your home (such as water and gas pipes), or through the ground.
Once it makes it into your home, the current generated by the lightning strike can travel through electrical lines, plumbing, phone lines, radio or television reception systems.
Flexible gas line is more susceptible to lightning damage than iron pipe.
Look, listen and smell for gas leaks and any evidence of a fire.
If the fire is small (smoldering) and in a remote location such as the crawl space, basement, or attic, you might not be able to see flames but you can often smell or see smoke.
If you detect any unusual odors or see any smoke, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Take a few minutes this week to make sure your family members know what to do when they are outside or at home and hear thunder.
Don't wait for the rain to begin to take shelter.
A comprehensive list of safety tips and other lightning resources are available at http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.
Washington Township Fire Department Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.