Thursday February 7, 2013
Don’t take lightning too lightly
THE lightning incident at a school in Taiping last Thursday evening, which claimed the life of the school football team captain (The Star, Feb 4), is preventable if the school authorities had implemented the lightning safety rules which have been periodically published in newspapers for more than a decade.
In the 4.30pm incident, the student and four of his friends were struck by lightning while playing football.
Fortunately, the other students survived with minor injuries.
The irony is that a similar incident had occurred almost a year earlier at another school in nearby Kuala Kangsar.
In that incident which occurred at 5.30pm, a student was killed when he, a teacher and three friends were struck by lightning after a school archery practice.
They were sheltering in a shed when it was struck by lightning.
The Education and Higher Education ministries should make lightning safety education a top priority among school heads and vice-chancellors since students make up a significant number of victims every year.
Last year alone, this group accounted for nearly half of all reported lightning injuries and fatalities.
School heads and vice chancellors should be held responsible if their students are injured or killed during a school/college organised sporting or outdoor event.
With thunderstorms predicted by the weather authority to be very bad this year due to climate change, the public and especially students should be reminded to strictly follow the 10 lightning safety rules below:
1. STOP all outdoor activities and seek shelter as soon as you see dark thunder clouds gather on the horizon or over the hill. Lightning can strike up to 15km away from the thundercloud i.e. even before the rain starts!;
2. RUN for a shelter if you hear a thunder or see a lightning bolt. You are already in danger of being struck by lightning;
3. DO NOT wait for the rain to fall before you act. Sometimes, lightning occurs before the rain starts falling. Never use an umbrella in a lightning storm;
4. DO NOT take shelter under a tree or in a tent, a small shed, a kongsi, a rotunda or a roadside food stall. For small shelters, ensure that they have been installed with a proper lightning protection system before you take shelter there;
5. TAKE shelter inside a sturdy or large building (e.g. a shop or a house), inside a metal roofed vehicle (eg. a bus, van or car), or under a large structure (eg. a bridge). Do not loiter outside a large building to avoid being struck by debris from lightning damage;
6. IF there is no proper shelter nearby, get down from an elevated position (eg. mound, hilltop or platform). Get into any depression in the ground or in a dry drain;
7. GET into a Lightning Defensive Position i.e. squat down with your feet together and close your ears with your hands. Do not lie down. Don’t touch anyone or any metal object (eg. fence, gate etc.) near you;
8. IF it rains, get your clothes wet because wet clothing helps reduce serious injuries to the person struck by lightning. Let the current flow over you instead of inside you.
9. INSIDE a shelter, do not touch any metallic object, electric equipment or cable. Do not use the telephone unless it is really urgent. Use a mobile phone instead (if available). Keep away from the balcony, verandah, doorway, window, wall or pillar; and
10. STAY inside your shelter for 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard. Lightning can strike up to 15km away from the thundercloud even after the rain had stopped!