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Lightning Safety

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  • rpatton2@comcast.net
    I am a member of a Yahoo! Group aimed at BSA Commissioners. Recently on this group there was a discussion on lightning safety. One of the members of the Yahoo!
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2006

      I am a member of a Yahoo! Group aimed at BSA Commissioners. Recently on this group there was a discussion on lightning safety. One of the members of the Yahoo! group who is from the Cherokee Area Council passed along the following information he wrote about this subject. I felt I would pass it along to you. (This information begins six paragraphs below.)

      Lightning is a real concern. I have heard stories of lightning hitting the flag pole in the middle of the field at Camp Gorman of the Bert Adams Scout Reservation and hitting the Camp Gorman pool (when we had a pool).

      While I was on camp staff at Bert Adams a Scout was standing in his tent holding onto a metal upright pole (not smart) when lightning hit the trees near his tent. He was knocked down, but was not seriously hurt. In 1978, I personally witnessed a lightning strike on one of the majestic post oaks between the Camp Gorman Program Center and the Woodruff Dining Hall. (No human was hurt.) This tree had much of its bark blasted off of it. The tree only lived a few more years before it had to be cut down for safety reasons. Currently, all that is left of it is a rotting stump surrounded by some smaller trees that grew up around the stump.

      A number of years ago while attending a Cub Scout Woodbadge Course in Alabama, an adult leader in my troop and her den were hit by a lightning strike. I am not aware of their injuries, but all of them had to be taken to the hospital. She seems currently to be fine.

      Tragically, in 1976, while a troop was camping at Camp Allatoona (now named the Camp Allatoona Aquatics Base), a thunderstorm came across the peninsula. While the troop was being gathered up to get under shelter one of the Boy Scouts was hit by lightning and killed.

      Below the author gives some suggestions for lightning safety, but also become aware of the Atlanta Area Council's weather related safety procedures while your unit attends summer camp at the Atlanta Area Council Camps.

      Robert Patton

       

      Regarding the discussion on lightning safety and what consists of prudent action for the leaders of a group, and if an event should be cancelled or not.
      I personally would hate to be the one to explain to a parent that I thought that it would be safe, when it was not.

      in Fall of 2004 I co-wrote an article on Lightning Safety and Scouting events.
      Here is the first part, the second and third will follow.
      From American Scouting Digest

      www.scoutingdigest.com


      Lightning Safety and Scouts:
      Are you taking the proper safety precautions?

      By Jack Wright
      (CSP-Retired) (edited by Lorie L McGraw)



      Many years ago at Skymont, the Cherokee Area Council Camp, there was a lightning fatality and very serious injury of two 10-year-old Webelos in a tent during a storm. Certainly one of the most tragic scenes I've ever heard about. Some Council adults still whisper about it, and some parents won't send their sons to camp because of it! A lot of rumors and misinformation have had time to develop, which is tragic, since most scout leader positions have turned over in the intervening years and all they've heard is rumor.

      Because Skymont is located high on the western edge of the Cumberland plateau, and since most summer weather comes SE from NW, the camp has more than its share of summer storms and lightning. The charged clouds unload their lightning into the elevated iron-rich soil. It then travels farther horizontally along the ground because we have 6' of wet dirt on top of solid limestone. Many times in the last 15 years there have been lightning strikes, and campers have been sent to the hospital at least twice (8 at one time), but fortunately with no more serious injuries.

      As a professional safety engineer, and since my own son would be going to summer camp at Skymont, I wanted to know what we were up against. I wanted to first review current technology, so I did a mini-project on my own in 1995. I combed local library weather texts, web sites, CD encyclopedias, ham radio magazine articles, and asked NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration www.noaa.gov) for materials. There is lightning protection information in the Guide to Safe Scouting, and much of the information that I have adapted comes right out of NOAA brochures.

      How to prevent lightning-related injuries at summer camp:

      Universally known precautions are to monitor NOAA frequencies, listen to ham radio SkyWarn repeater nets, and have a set of procedures in place in case of an approaching storm. Our camp directors and medical staff looked at my research, and we adopted a set of procedures for detection and pre-warning of approaching storms, i.e. observation & communication, alerting mechanisms, when to evacuate to the dining hall, etc. Some items are specific to Skymont, but most of the items are simply prudent safety procedures. Other scout camps may be in high-lightning areas of the country, and each would need to develop plans specific to their own area.

      One relatively easy thing to do at camp is to have all tents on wood pallets and evacuate all campers to their tents before and during a storm. Train everyone to stay on the pallets only until an "All Clear" is sounded. Our fatality years ago was just out of the lake, wet, removing his bathing trunks so as not to get his floor or bedding wet, and unknowingly standing on the ground between two pallets. His best friend, a mere 3 feet away, was on the pallet, and lived.

      Now, on the first day of each camping week, our Camp Director spends 5-10 minutes on it in a general safety orientation and announcement session. All adults and campers are taught and practice the "lightning-safe crouch" (see sidebar). Some campers have said they've experienced their hair tingling in a storm, and done the crouch. Perhaps through education and training we have prevented an injury in the last few summers.

      Normally most people, and many council board members, still live with fear and myth that lightning is inevitable, not preventable, and is a normal risk of the outdoors. Money is always tight. Making permanent campsites "lightning-protected areas" is possible, but would take a lot of attitude and fortitude. At each permanent site cut the top limbs out of tallest trees. Install tall properly grounded power poles taller than the trees in woods between sites to bleed off or draw strikes away from lightning prone areas.

      I found that most past research has been to develop devices to minimize damage after strikes, such as lightning rods, arresters, etc. It seems to me there's a lot more room for "bleed off and prevent the strike in the first place" dissipation device research. The closest thing I've seen to succeed at this has been produced by Glen Zook, a ham operator (W5UOJ), who details a sort of hefty metal grounded "broom", mounted handle down and splines up (known as a "Porcupine" static charge dissipater), which glows pink while it bleeds off the charge from the air. His antenna farm, close to the highest location in his town, has not been hit in 22 years, despite very damaging regular hits close by all around him. (See the Feb. '95 issue of "73 Amateur Radio Today" for more details). Perhaps something similar could be arranged for your camp.

      Lightning Facts and Preventive Actions (see post 2)

      � >>

      I do hope some of this work will benefit others in Scouting and help to prevent a tragedy like the one we had at Skymont. I can correspond with any scout camp that is in a high lightning area and interested in more information.
      Contact John F. Wright jackwright@... 1701 Julian Ridge Road Chattanooga, TN 37421


      Resources:
      The National Lightning Safety Institute

      www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls.html

      Guide to Safe Scouting (BSA Supply #34416B)

      US Scouting Service Project Lightning Safety Page
      www.usscouts.org/safety/safe_lig.html

      NOAA Lightning Safety Page / www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/
      The Wireman: for static charge dissipaters 261 Pittman Road Landrum, SC 29356
      (800) 727-WIRE
      www.thewireman.com/ground.html

      Lightning Facts and Preventive Actions


      Take time NOW to learn and understand the hazards of lightning, and the basic safety rules.

      Lightning Facts:

      � Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms, in the storm area and out in front of the storm. If you can hear thunder before the storm, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.

      � Lightning causes an average of 93 fatalities in the USA each year, and over 300 serious injuries, with several hundred million dollars in damage to property and forests each year.

      � Strikes result from the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between negatively charged areas (bottom of cloud) and positively charged areas (items on earth). It is static electricity on a huge scale.

      � Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000 each year, but that can be greatly reduced by knowing and following lightning safety rules.

      � A lightning flash is estimated to carry 30,000 to 300,000 Amps. at 15 million to 125 million Volts, for less than 1 second. This is why such awesome and often bizarre stories are told of the results.

      � The air near a flash is heated to 50,000F - 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun. The rapid heating and cooling of this air causes the shock wave we hear as thunder.

      � Most lightning casualties occur in the summer months, during afternoon or early evening, when people are caught outdoors.

      � A strike begins as channels of negatively charged air (invisible "leaders") move downward from the cloud toward the ground. When one channel nears an object on the ground, a powerful surge of positively charged particles (skin and hair tingle) moves upward toward the cloud, connects, and produces the flash. Three or four strikes may occur within one-tenth of a second, makes the flash appear to flicker.

      � To estimate the distance in miles between you and the lightning, count the seconds between the flash and the sound of the thunder, and divide by five.

      � In recent years, people have been killed by lightning while boating, fishing in a boat, swimming, golfing, bike riding, standing under a tree, riding on a lawnmower, talking on the telephone, loading a truck, playing soccer, and mountain climbing.

      Myths and Facts:

      Myth:

      If it's not raining, then there is no danger from lightning.

      Fact: Lightning often occurs as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall, in or around the future path of the storm.

      Myth: Rubber shoe soles and auto tires will protect you from being struck.

      Fact: These provide NO protection. The steel frame of a hardtop vehicle provides some protection, if you are not touching metal inside.

      Myth: After being struck by lightning, a person carries an electrical charge, and should not be touched.

      Fact: Not true. Attend to the victim without delay, CPR may be needed immediately.

      Myth: "Heat lightning" without sound poses no threat, it simply occurs after very hot summer days.

      Fact: This is from a thunderstorm too far away for the thunder to be heard. It may be moving in your direction.

      Myth: Standing under a picnic shelter is the safest place in a thunderstorm.

      Fact: Unless the shelter is grounded (has wiring or metal gutters that go to the ground) a picnic shelter or shed is no protection against a strike.

      Myth: If you are hit by lightning you will die instantly.

      Fact: On average, 20% of strike victims die, while 70% of survivors suffer serious long-term effects from burns and neurological damage.

      Lightning Safety for Scout Leaders and Scouts

      � Before the storm: Check weather forecasts ahead of time. Know the area you're in. Watch the sky. Listen to NOAA broadcasts for "watches"(stormy conditions likely), or "warnings"(actual storms).

      � If you hear thunder, head to safety!

      � Stay off of high ridges, especially if a storm is approaching. Remember that strikes can happen "out of the clear blue sky" from a storm over 10 miles away.

      � If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter right away. If caught in a boat, crouch down in the center of the boat away from metal hardware. Swimming, wading, snorkeling and scuba diving are NOT safe. Lightning can strike the water and travel some distance beneath and away from its point of contact. Don't stand in puddles of water, even if wearing rubber boots.

      � Best shelter is in a sturdy building or hardtop vehicle.

      � Outdoors, shelter in a low area under shorter trees or bushes when tall trees are nearby. Take off a metal frame pack. Put on your rain gear.

      � Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or under tall trees when shorter trees are nearby.

      � Avoid contact with dissimilar objects (water & land; boat & land; rock & ground; tree & ground)

      � Stay away from metal items like backpack frames (both internal and external), fishing rods, pipes, fences, telephone poles and lines. Use the telephone only in an emergency. Do not take a bath or shower, and don't hold an electrical appliance.

      � If you are in the open, spread out, do not huddle together.

      � If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, do the "Lightning-Safe Crouch". Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible, and minimize your contact with the ground. Stay this way until the storm passes, perhaps 15 to 45 minutes.

      � Severe weather can bring damaging winds, hail, flashfloods, and tornados as well as lightning. Be aware of evacuation routes as you hike and camp.

      I do hope some of this work will benefit others in Scouting and help to prevent a tragedy like the one we had at Skymont. I can correspond with any scout camp that is in a high lightning area and interested in more information.
      Contact John F. Wright jackwright@... 1701 Julian Ridge Road Chattanooga, TN 37421


      Resources:
      The National Lightning Safety Institute www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls.html

      Guide to Safe Scouting (BSA Supply #34416B)

      US Scouting Service Project Lightning Safety Page www.usscouts.org/safety/safe_lig.html

      NOAA Lightning Safety Page / www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/
      The Wireman: for static charge dissipaters 261 Pittman Road Landrum, SC 29356
      (800) 727-WIRE www.thewireman.com/ground.html

      Beware of Lightning

      The summits of mountains, crests of ridges, slopes above timberline, and large meadows are extremely hazardous places to be during lightning storms. If you are caught in such an exposed place, quickly descend to a lower elevation, away from the direction of the approaching storm, and squat down, keeping your head low. A dense forest located in a depression provides the best protection. Avoid taking shelter under isolated trees or trees much taller than adjacent trees. Stay away from water, metal objects, and other substances that will conduct electricity long distances.


      �Whenever lightning is nearby, take off backpacks with either external or internal metal frames. In tents, stay at least a few inches from metal tent poles.

      ~~~From the Guide to Safe Scouting (BSA Supply #34416B)
      also available online at

      http://www.scouting.org/pubs/gss/index.html

      ============
      Assume the Position!
      The Lightning Crouch: Use this only as a last, desperate measure!!

      If you've made several bad decisions and are outside far away from proper shelter when lightning threatens, proceed to the safest location. Get off the higher elevations, get out of the open fields, get away from tall isolated objects, and get away from water.

      If lightning is imminent, it will sometimes give a very few seconds of warning. Sometimes your hair will stand-up on end, or your skin will tingle, or light metal objects will vibrate, or you'll hear a crackling or "kee-kee" sound. If this happens and you're in a group, spread out so there are several body lengths between each person. If one person is struck, the others may not be hit and can give first aid. Once you've spread out, use the lightning crouch; put your feet together, squat down, tuck your head, and cover your ears. When the immediate threat of lightning has passed, continue heading to the safest spot possible.

      Remember, this is a desperate last resort; you are much safer if you follow the previous steps and not gotten into this high-risk situation.

      ~~ From the Lightning Safety Institute
      www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls/hazardwarning.html

      =============
      What to do if someone is struck by lightning:
      Call for help. Call 9-1-1 or your local ambulance service. Get medical attention as quickly as possible.
      Give first aid. Treat the apparently dead first. Immediately administer CPR to restore breathing. Eighty percent of lightning strike victims survive the shock. If the victim has stopped breathing, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, address any other injuries. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing or eyesight.
      Check for burns in two places. The injured person has received an electric shock and may be burned. The burn will go into the body at one place and exit to the ground at another.
      People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge that can shock other people. You can examine them without risk.
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