Lightning precautions


For protection from lightning, public safety officials suggest the following precautions:

* If you're going to be on the water, check the forecast before casting off. If thunderstorms are predicted, beware.

* Listen to an AM radio. Static can indicate a storm before it becomes visible.

* In the event of a storm, put on a life jacket, pinpoint your location and head toward shore.

* Reduce speed in a storm for maximum steering stability.

* If you can't get ashore, use extra line to anchor in a protected cove, turn off electrical equipment and ride out the storm, stay inside or low in the center of the boat and avoid metal surfaces.

* Sailboat masts and rigging should be properly grounded through the keel to provide a cone of protection from lightning strikes. Larger powerboats with antennae that are properly grounded also offer protection -- but be careful not to touch metal or water, or any two parts of the grounding system, which will make you part of the electrical circuit. Small, open wood or fiberglass boats offer minimal protection.

* If you need help, call the Maryland Natural Resource Police on VHF marine radio Channel 16, or use flares to signal for help.

* If you can get ashore, get inside a building or a hard-topped vehicle, being careful not to touch the sides or steering wheel.

* Avoid using the telephone except during an emergency.

* If you are outside, avoid natural lightning rods such as isolated tall trees and sheds, and don't become the tallest object yourself by standing on hilltops, beaches or in open fields or a small boat.

* Get off tractors, motorcycles, bicycles and golf carts, and put down golf clubs. Stay away from wire fences, clotheslines, metal pipes, rails or anything that could conduct electricity to you.

* In a forest, go to a low ravine or valley, but be alert for flash floods.

* Finally, if you are hopelessly isolated in a level field and feel your hair stand on end -- indicating lightning is about to strike -- bend forward and place your hands on your knees. Do not lie flat on the ground.

-- Compiled from information provided by the Maryland Natural Resources Police, the Baltimore County Police Department's Marine Unit, the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

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