SPRINGFIELD – “When thunder roars, go indoors” is a simple phrase, but it’s one that officials with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) believe could save lives. During Lightning Safety Awareness Week June 21-27, IEMA and the NWS are spreading the word about the simple steps people can take to stay safe when a thunderstorm approaches.
The two organizations kicked off Lightning Safety Awareness Week with a press conference Monday in Springfield, where they were joined by representatives from the Illinois Little League youth baseball organization. IEMA and the NWS commended Little League for its proactive approach to protecting youth baseball players from the dangers of lightning.
“Every day, thousands of children across the state are participating in outdoor sporting events, whether it’s baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, swimming and more,” said IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III. “We’re very pleased to see a major youth baseball organization like Little League take a proactive approach to protect their players, and we strongly encourage other organizations will follow their fine example.”
Velasquez explained that the catch-phrase, “When thunder roars, go indoors,” is an easy way to remember that if you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning, even if it isn’t raining. At the first sound of thunder, people should go to a substantial building or hard-topped car and stay there for 30 minutes after hearing the last rumble of thunder before resuming outdoor activities.
That’s the message Tim Ward, a Little League district administrator from Rushville, has been sharing with his fellow district administrators, tournament officials and umpires associated with the Little League organization in Illinois. Earlier this month, Ward invited Heather Stanley, meteorologist with the NWS office in Lincoln, to speak about lighting safety to tournament directors a district meeting in Rushville. Ward also coordinated the distribution of a NWS lightning safety brochure for coaches and sports officials to his fellow Little League district administrators in Illinois. In addition, on June 24 the NWS will conduct a conference call with all 18 Illinois Little League district administrators to offer information and answer questions.
“In the next six weeks, there will be more than 1,000 Little League games played in Illinois, with more than 6,000 baseball and softball players between the ages of 9-12,” said Ward. “Player safety always has been, and always will be, a top priority for Little League. I’m very pleased to work with IEMA and the National Weather Service to make sure our tournament officials and umpires know how to keep our players safe when severe weather approaches.”
Lightning-related deaths appear to be declining, and officials from IEMA and the NWS hope this year’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week campaign will help save even more lives.
“Lightning safety awareness campaigns have made a huge difference in keeping people safe across the country,” said Chris Miller, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the NWS in Lincoln. “Sixty years ago, an average of 260 people died from lightning strikes every year. Thirty years ago, the average was 100 people killed by lightning annually. Today that average is around 60 deaths, and last year lightning killed 28 people – the lowest total since 1940. It is clear that education and awareness about the dangers of lightning has saved lives.”
Outdoor lightning safety tips:
• Get away from water – stop activities in or near water, such as swimming, boating, fishing and camping and seek a substantial shelter. A safe shelter is fully enclosed with a roof and four walls. Tents, picnic shelters or pavilions will not keep you safe.
• If no substantial shelter is available, seek refuge in a hard-topped vehicle with the windows up.
• Do not seek shelter under tall, isolated trees. This will increase your risk of being struck.
Indoor lightning safety tips:
• Avoid contact with corded phones. Phone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries.
• Stay away from windows and exterior doors, which can provide a path for a direct strike to enter your home.
• Stay off of porches and decks. Even if a porch is covered, it does not offer any protection from lightning strikes.
• Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. Direct strikes and power surges due to lightning cause significant damage to personal property each year. If you plan to unplug any electrical equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.
• Stay away from plumbing and plumbing appliances. Do not take a shower or bath during a thunderstorm.
For additional tips on lighting safety visit the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov or by calling 217-785-9888.