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Thunderstorm Season

As summer approaches the Southern Hemisphere it is important to listen for storm warnings. Weather conditions change rapidly and thunderstorms are especially prevalent at this time of the year, writes Andre du Toit.

Objects struck by lightning experience heat and magnetic forces of great magnitude and could prove fatal. By way of example, the resultant electric current from a single lightning bolt can provide enough energy to light a city of 200 000 people for one minute!

Below are some guidelines of what to do before, during and after a lightning storm.

When you see lightning or a thunderstorm approaching:

• Get inside a building or an enclosed vehicle. Keep away from windows and open doors. If you are outdoors, go to low ground and crouch down. If you are in a group, stay several yards apart from one another. If there is no shelter, crouch in a low area with low brush or bushes. Lightning often strikes the tallest object. Never crouch beneath tall trees.

• Avoid standing near water, tall objects (including trees or poles) and metal objects. Electrical current can easily travel through them and then to you. Stay out of the water. Never go swimming or boating during a storm. Electricity flows easily through water and also through you if you are in the water. Swimming, wading, snorkeling and scuba diving are not safe. If you are in a boat, get below deck or on the beach. Do not stand in puddles even if wearing rubber boots.

• During severe storms, do not use electrical appliances or the telephone. Lightning can strike outside and follow the wires into your home. Also, protect equipment with surge suppressors and unplug your computer and other sensitive electrical equipment to avoid damage caused by lightning surges.

• Avoid the shower, sink and bathtub. Lightning surges also can occur inside your home by traveling through your plumbing.

• Keep away from fallen power lines and treat them all as if they were energized and dangerous. If you are in an automobile that is hit by fallen wires, do not leave the vehicle. If you must leave because of a life-threatening situation, use extreme caution. Jump out and off with both feet at the same time so you are completely clear of the vehicle before you touch the ground. Never touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.

• Sign up for a first aid/CPR class. Check with your local hospital community education department or the Red Cross for availability. Your knowledge could save a life.

• For boaters, have a weather radio on board, and don’t be on the water when a storm comes up.

Lightning Myths:

Myth: Lightning strikes the highest point:
FALSE. Lightning strikes the best conductor of electricity, and sometimes that can be a human being.

Myth: Lightning never strikes in the same place twice:
FALSE. Buildings as high as the Carlton Centre in Johannesberg may get hit by lightning a couple of times a year.

Myth: You can buy surge protectors or suppressors to protect your appliances and home electronics:
FALSE. Experts say that surge protectors are not ideal as protection against lightning and power surges. While there are many good devices on the market, there is no guarantee of absolute protection from lightning or electrical surges.

Should you have any questions about lightning and risk transfer, call 0861 SATIB 4U (0861 728 4248) or visit www.satib.com.