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There are approximately 100 lightning strikes to earth per second. The frequency of lightning strikes is greater at higher altitudes and lower latitudes. Most of the US receives anywhere from 5 to 15 lightning strikes per sq. km./yr.
Exactly where lightning will strike can not be predicted, nor can lightning be prevented. If you are hiking in an area where there are active lightning strikes, getting struck is a very real possibility. Understanding a few basics and taking some precautionary measures can greatly reduce the risk.
If lightning strikes within 7 miles of your location for maximum safety you should immediately adopt a defensive posture because lightning can jump as much as 7 miles between strikes. You can judge the distance of lightning strikes by counting the seconds between a strike and the sound of the resulting thunder. Every 5 seconds is equal to about 1 mile. Any lightning strike whose thunder you can hear within about 35 seconds is within 7 miles or so of your location, and indicates it is time to take some defensive action.
When lightning is near avoid open spaces, high ground and tall objects such as lone trees, and avoid highly conductive materials such as metal and water. Go to low ground if possible such as the bottom of a gully, or seek groups of trees or tall brush and crouch down to maintain a low profile.
Shallow caves are not safe places during lightning storms because the electricity travels through the earth.
If someone in your hiking party is struck by lightning and not breathing, you should immediately attempt to restore life by giving CPR. Their bodies do not retain the electrical charge and are safe to handle, and most people can survive a strike if given proper treatment right away.
The following is from the National Lightning Safety Institute.PERSONAL LIGHTNING SAFETY TIPS
1.PLAN in advance your evacuation and safety measures. When you first see lightning or hear thunder, activate your emergency plan. Now is the time to go to a building or a vehicle. Lightning often precedes rain, so don't wait for the rain to begin before suspending activities.
2.IF OUTDOORS...Avoid water. Avoid the high ground. Avoid open spaces. Avoid all metal objects including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors, power tools, etc. Unsafe places include underneath canopies, small picnic or rain shelters, or near trees. Where possible, find shelter in a substantial building or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car, truck or a van with the windows completely shut. If lightning is striking nearby when you are outside, you should:
3.IF INDOORS... Avoid water. Stay away from doors and windows. Do not use the telephone. Take off head sets. Turn off, unplug, and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools, & TV sets. Lightning may strike exterior electric and phone lines, inducing shocks to inside equipment.
4.SUSPEND ACTIVITIES for 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder.
5.INJURED PERSONS do not carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely. Apply First Aid procedures to a lightning victim if you are qualified to do so. Call 911 or send for help immediately.
Know Your Emergency Telephone Numbers
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