Florida is often called the lightning capital of America. Small wonder why! Florida averages 1.4 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes every year and topped nearly $74 million in lightning-related home insurance claims in 2014.
In recognition of Lightning Safety Awareness Week, we asked weather tech pioneer and WeatherSTEM creator Ed Mansouri what Floridians can do to protect themselves and their homes during a lightning storm. Here are his lightning safety tips:
The 30-30 Rule
Lightning has been known to strike more than 10 miles away from the heaviest rain in a thunderstorm. One easy way to tell if lightning is a threat in your area is to follow the 30-30 Rule: Count the seconds between when you see the lightning and hear thunder. If the gap is less than 30 seconds, lightning is a threat and you should seek shelter immediately. Even if you can’t see lightning, just hearing thunder is a serious warning sign.
After hearing the last rumble of thunder, wait at least 30 minutes before leaving shelter. Lightning is still dangerous after a storm has passed, so stay in a safe place until you’re sure the threat is over.
If You’re Inside…
- Do not operate corded phones, computers, or other electrical equipment that puts you in direct contact with electricity.
- Avoid using plumbing facilities, including sinks, bathtubs, and faucets.
- Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
- Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.
If You’re Outside…
- Immediately get away from elevated areas, including hills.
- Never lie flat on the ground.
- Never take shelter under an isolated tree.
- Immediately get out of and away from ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water.
- Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, etc.)
Protect Your Home
Lightning does some strange things … It can even jump from a tree branch to a house. Lightning rods intercept a lightning strike and provide a conductive path for the dangerous electrical discharge to follow, dispersing the energy safely into the ground. While there’s no way to reduce the chance of your home being struck by lightning, installing a lightning rod can reduce the risk of a lightning-related fire.
A complete lightning protection system can also help prevent electrical surges and potential fires caused by lightning entering through wires and pipes. In addition to a lightning rod, this system includes electrical surge protection devices for incoming power, data, communication lines, and other vulnerable appliances.
Make sure your lightning protection system follows the national safety standards and requirements of the Lightning Protection Institute, National Fire Protection Association, and Underwriters Laboratories.
Track Lightning Storms with WeatherSTEM
WeatherSTEM is an innovative tool that can help keep you safe by warning you when lightning is nearby. It provides a highly customizable alert platform that responds to a wide variety of current and forecasted conditions. WeatherSTEM has already been installed in more than 150 locations throughout the state, including public and private K-12 schools, state universities, higher education centers, research facilities, municipal services, state parks, agricultural centers, farms, entertainment facilities, emergency management offices, and homeowner associations.
To download the mobile app on iOS, click here.
Ed Mansouri graduated from Penn State University with a major course of study in both engineering and meteorology. He completed his master’s degree in meteorology at Florida State University, where he is beginning work on his Ph.D. with a focus in predictive lightning.