Traditionally held the last full week of June, National Lightning Safety Awareness Week not only helps get safety messages out in time for the Fourth of July (historically one of the most deadly times of the year for lightning) but also signals summer as lightning season in the United States.
More people are outside during summer holidays: on the beach, golf course, ball fields, mountains and forests…and outside is the most dangerous place to be during a lightning or thunderstorm. According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency Regional Director John Pennington, lightning strikes and high winds associated with thunderstorms also increase wildfire risks.
“Recent rain and thunderstorms have helped counteract low snow packs and regional droughts which traditionally promote higher wildfire risks, but these storms are a mixed blessing,” said Pennington. “High winds can knock trees into power lines sparking new blazes, or fan existing fires to danger levels. And lightning often strikes as far as ten miles away from any rainfall, creating hotspots that smolder for days, to flare when conditions are right.”
Pennington reminds everyone that the time to plan for disasters is before disaster strikes. “Keep an eye on the sky and when the sky darkens, get inside. No matter how busy or hectic your workaday world, now is the time to think about what to do in the event of severe weather,” said Pennington. “If you live in an urban interface area or on wooded lots, create fire-safe perimeters, and update family disaster plans.”
Don’t have a family disaster plan? Get one. Start with FEMA’s Are You Ready? In-depth guide to Citizen Preparedness, available from www.ready.gov or at www.fema.gov. The Are You Ready citizen’s guide is also available from FEMA’s publications warehouse by calling (800) 480-2520.
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