Warm weather tugs on most of us to go outside and enjoy the sunny days. However, warm weather is also the perfect breeding ground for storms. In fact, tornadoes are most likely and most dangerous in April through June, according to the experts at Weather.com. Thunderstorms are also more likely in the spring and summer, making it prime time for lighting strikes – especially on the beach.
Here’s what you should do to keep you and your family safe:
Be prepared for an emergency
“Put together an emergency kit,” advises Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council. “Include essentials like a first aid kit, and enough food, water, flashlights, batteries, and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours.” Other safety kit suggestions can be found here.
She also recommends that you use a weather radio or sign up for text alerts from your local news stations so you’ll know when there are significant changes in the weather.
Avoid downed power lines
“When you see sagging or downed power lines, always assume they are live,” Hall warns. “Stay away, warn others to stay away, and contact the electric utility or 911.” Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because the lines are not arching or sparking, they’re not energized and deadly.
Even if you’re close by, you could be in danger. According to data from Puget Sound Energy, energized lines are capable of charging the ground near the point of contact, which is enough to electrocute you. Don’t try to drive over downed power lines, and if one falls on your car, don’t attempt to get out until you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the line has been de-energized.
In an emergency (such as a car fire) when you must get out of the car, jump away from the car as you exit, and land with your feet close together. To ensure you’re not creating a path for electricity to run through you, keep your hands away from the car when you step out, and then take short, shuffling steps to keep your feet fully on the ground.
Protect home appliances and equipment
“We recommend turning off electrical appliances and unplugging major electronics, including computers and televisions, to avoid damage from potential power surges,” says Hall. If the electricity does go out, Hall says, “Leave one light on to indicate that power is back on, then wait a few minutes to turn on other appliances and equipment—one at a time.”
The extra-cautious should consider purchasing ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs, which can detect when electrical situations are about to occur and turn off your power. GFCIs can be installed in areas where water might come into contact with electricity (basement, laundry room, bathroom, kitchen, outdoors).
Avoid outdoor activities when lightning is nearby
According to Weather.com, fishing (off piers, in boats and on beaches) is the top cause of lightning strikes. Beach activities (i.e. sunbathing, ball playing) is the second highest cause, and camping is the third. Whether you’re partaking in these activities or others not listed, any outdoor activity is cause for concern when lightning is close. If you happen to be outside when lightning strikes, seek immediate shelter in a hard-top car or a building that is enclosed on all four sides.
Don’t take chances during a storm
Above all, “It’s so important to seek shelter when you know a storm is approaching,” Hall says.
Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.