Introduction by Leon Pantenburg
We were on a backpacking trip through Rocky Mountain National Park, and the three of us were resting before attempting to climb over “The Saddle,” a mountain pass about 12,000 feet high.
The air smelled…funny, somehow, and the cloudy sky promised a continuation of the rain that had followed us for several days. We were sitting in a clump of trees, eating a snack, when, with no warning, a bolt of lightning hit the area near the trail several hundred yards ahead. We saw the bolt before we heard any thunder, or there was any indication of danger.
It was a good time to stay put, and we did. A little earlier up the trail, and who can say what would have happened!
About 2,000 people are injured by lightning strikes around the world each year, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute. In the U.S., about 10 percent of those struck die, for an average of 40 to 50 deaths per year. Lightning is the #2 weather killer nationwide, second only to floods. The odds of being struck by lightning during a given year are 1:700,000.
To view the video, click on Peter Kummerfeldt understanding survival.
If you’re one of the unlucky victims, lightning can hurt you in several different ways, according to NLSI:
Direct strike, which is usually fatal. Contact injury, when the person was touching an object that was struck.
Side splash, when current jumped from a nearby object to the victim.
Ground strike, current passing from a strike through the ground into a nearby victim. A strike can cause a difference of potential in the ground (due to resistance to current in the Earth), amounting to several thousand volts per foot.
Blast injuries, either hearing damage or blunt trauma by being thrown to the ground. While lightning is associated with thunderstorms, a strike can occur on an apparently cloudless day. This is known as “A Bolt from the Blue”and it happens because lightning can strike up to 10 miles from a cloud!
So, if you’re in a cloudless area with a reputation for lightning, here’s some things to pay attention to:
Lightning interferes with AM radio signals much more than FM.Tune to an AM radio frequency between transmitting stations, and listen for crackles amongst the static.
Lightning predictions systems have been developed and may be posted in lightning strike risk areas, such as public parks. These systems detect favorable conditions for lightning strikes and provide a warning to those in the immediate area.
But the best advice comes from survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt, who advises being prepared for thunderstorms before you go.
By Peter Kummerfeldt
DAYS BEFORE THE ACTIVITY
Become aware of expected weather by listening to the extended weather forecasts. Decide on the criteria you will use to stop your outdoor activities and where and when to take shelter.
DAY OF ACTIVITY
Have a plan during outdoor activities for where and when to take shelter if lightning moves into the area. Designate a group “lightning spotter” to warn the group when lightning threatens.
WHEN THUNDERSTORMS THREATEN
Estimate distance to the lightning using the flash-to-bang method. Count the seconds between the flash of the lightning, and the bang of the thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five. The answer is approximately the number of miles from you to the storm.
Determine whether the storm is approaching your position or moving away. If the storm is less than six miles away (30 seconds) you may be in danger – take shelter now! Take action in ample time to reach shelter.
Take shelter. Go inside a building or vehicle — do not touch anything metal or anything that is connected to power, phone, plumbing, television or computers. Shelter in a stand of trees of even height. Stand away from the trunks. Do not shelter below isolated trees.
Move off the peaks and out of exposed areas. Get out of water and move away from shorelines. If with a group, spread out. Drop fishing rods, rifles and remove metal objects that are in contact with your body.
“Don’t be, or don’t be connected to the highest object in the area.”
If you have ignored these precautions and are caught out, crouch down on the balls of your feet with your head down, arms wrapped around your knees with your hands over your ears. If you cannot assume, or hold this position, stand in the safest area available with your feet together.
Stay protected until the storm leaves your area — many casualties occur because people do not take shelter soon enough or leave their shelter too soon. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last lightning discharge in your area before leaving the safety of your shelter.
“It is far safer not to get caught out in a thunderstorm than to try to protect yourself once the storm has started!”
Peter Kummerfeldt has walked the talk in the wilderness survival field for decades. Peter grew up in Kenya, East Africaand came to America in 1965 and joined the U.S. Air Force. He is a graduate of the Air Force Survival Instructor
Training School and has served as an instructor at the Basic Survival School, Spokane, Washington; the Arctic Survival School, Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Jungle Survival School, Republic of the Philippines. For twelve years, Peter was the Survival Training Director at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. He retired from the Air Force in 1995 after 30 years of service. In 1992, concerned with the number of accidents that were occurring in the outdoors annually and the number of tourists traveling overseas who were involved in unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening incidents Peter created Outdoorsafe.com
He is the author of “Surviving a Wilderness Emergency” and has addressed over 20,000 people as the featured speaker at numerous seminars, conferences and national conventions
Click here to visit Peter’s website!