A Reminder from the Ministry of Health and Wellness: Lightning Strikes Can Kill You

In the past few weeks, we have had thunderstorms almost every day, and violent ones, too. After the long drought and record high temperatures, rains have lashed us. Extreme weather is what we can expect, increasingly.

But I am always nervous about lightning. Our dogs are always unnerved by the slightest roll of thunder. So, between us, we have all been quite jumpy lately. (By the way, as I write, I hear another storm approaching).

Lightning is no joke. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has put out a warning to be very, very careful. Recently, several schoolboys have been affected by lightning while playing on an open field in the afternoon. Yes, there is a football competition on, but the coaches need to be much, much more careful when thunder is around. They need to stop play immediately. Earlier, a teenager picking guineps in a tree was struck by lightning and killed.

Jamaica College player Terrence Francis being stretchered off the field of play at a Manning Cup football match against Wolmer’s Boys’ School at Stadium East in St Andrew after a lightning strike during the game on September 16. (Photo: Job Nelson/Marlon Reid)

Below is a press release from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, which includes very useful advice.

Prevent the Harmful Effects of Lightning

KINGSTON, Jamaica. 3 October 2019. The Ministry of Health and Wellness is reminding the public that lightning strikes are harmful to health and are potentially fatal.

A lightning bolt is a million times more powerful than household current, carrying up to 100 million volts of electricity. When someone is struck by lightning, an electrical shock occurs that can cause burns and even stop the person’s heart or breathing.

Published data indicate that globally over 20,000 people are affected by lightning and several thousand die due to lightning-related injuries every year.

Increasing population density, increasing lightning density from climate variability and hilly terrains play important roles in the number of lightning deaths. The risk to Jamaicans is, therefore, significant.

Over the last four weeks, Jamaicans have been seriously affected by lightning strikes.

Climatologist have warned that due to climate change, the likelihood of being struck by lightning has increased, partly due to thunderstorms becoming more explosive as a consequence of warming temperatures.

This year, extremely high temperatures have been recorded for Jamaica. As we enter the latter part of the hurricane season, thunderstorms are more likely to occur and any thunderstorm is a potential killer since they generate lightning. This increases the frequency of occurrence of lightning strikes as lightning is one of the weather-related natural disasters normally associated with thunderstorms.

The public is, therefore, advised to take precautionary measures to reduce the likelihood of being struck by lightning.

  • Pay attention to weather conditions and forecasts, allowing time to plan for threatening weather and to react appropriately.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Lightning can strike the same place twice. Some lightning bolts can travel many miles horizontally from a storm before they strike the surface.
  • The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside a well-constructed building away from conducting elements, such as water and electrical wires or devises.

While inside, avoid the use of electrical devices, such as computers and irons, and stay out of the bath or shower.

If outside, the most dangerous place to be is at the highest point or underneath an object, such as a tree that represents a relative high point on the terrain. Also:

  • Stay away from water. Halt recreational activities in or on water and wait at least 30 minutes before resuming, avoiding plumbing or electrical circuits.
  • If you feel your hair begin to stand on end, crouch down as low as you can to the ground and with only the toes of your feet contacting the ground. Also, close your eyes and cover your ear lobes.
  • If you take shelter in a vehicle, roll the windows up and do not touch the outer frame of the car. Do not take refuge in a convertible car, even if the top is on.

Finally, a person struck by lightning needs immediate attention. Lightning victims are safe to touch. Bystanders should not hesitate to save a life by calling for help. Telephones and cellphones do not increase the risk of a lightning strike. Often, a person who is struck by lightning can be revived by Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). A trained rescuer should administer CPR.



2 thoughts on “A Reminder from the Ministry of Health and Wellness: Lightning Strikes Can Kill You

  1. Very timely post. I’ve admitted quite a few lightning struck patients in the last several weeks. The late effects of lightning strikes and electrical burns are potentially fatal arrythmias, kidney failure, disability and burn wound sepsis, and it’s what we treat and prevent in these victims so I wish they wouldn’t delay in seeking medical attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My goodness. I think people don’t always understand and I did not realize the after effects can be delayed either. I also think this was very timely and useful information. Thanks so much for your response. Kidney failure! I had no idea.

      Liked by 1 person

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