How to avoid being struck by lightning

THE recent death of a motorcyclist due to lightning shows that this unfortunate incident can happen anywhere and any time during a thunderstorm.

The victim was reportedly riding on the Shah Alam Expressway near the Kota Kemuning toll plaza when he was struck by lightning.

He might still be alive if he had taken shelter in a safe building or under a bridge after the first thunder was heard.

Such incidents are not new. In 1992, a farmer and his son were killed when they were struck by lightning.

In 2000, a woman was killed and her mother injured when they were struck by lightning while riding on a motorcycle.

In 2006, a man was killed by lightning as he was riding home on a motorcycle.

In 2008, a child was killed when he was struck by lightning while riding pillion on a motorcycle with his father and younger brother, who were both injured.

The inter-monsoon season has started and we can expect more thunderstorms due to the increased atmospheric moisture generated by heat.

The public is advised to follow lightning safety rules.

Since they were introduced more than a dozen years ago, these rules have helped raise awareness of lightning safety and perhaps reduce the annual lightning fatality cases in the country. Here are the rules:

STOP all outdoor activity and seek shelter as soon as you see dark thunderclouds gathering on the horizon or over the hill. Lightning can strike up to 15km away from the thundercloud even before the rain starts;

RUN for shelter if you can hear thunder or see a lightning bolt. You are in danger of being struck by lightning;

DO NOT wait for rain to fall before you act. Sometimes, lightning occurs before the rain starts. Never use an umbrella in a lightning storm;

DO NOT take shelter under a tree, tent, small shed, kongsi, rotunda or roadside food stall. As for small shelters, ensure that they are installed with a proper lightning protection system before you take shelter in them;

DO take shelter inside a sturdy and large building (shop or house), metal-roofed vehicle (bus, van or car) or under a large structure (bridge). Do not loiter outside a large building to avoid being struck by debris from lightning damage;

IF there is no proper shelter nearby, get down from an elevated position (mound, hilltop or platform). Get into any depression in the ground or a dry drain;

GET into a lightning defensive position — squat with your feet together and close your ears with your hands. Do not lie down. Do not touch anyone or any metal objects (fence or gate) near

IF it rains, get your clothes wet because wet clothing reduces serious injuries if you are struck by lightning. Let the current flow over you instead of inside you;

INSIDE a shelter, do not touch any metal objects, electric equipment or cable. Do not use the telephone unless it is urgent. Use a mobile phone instead (if available). Keep away from the balcony, verandah, doorway, window, wall or pillar; and,

STAY inside the shelter for 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard. Lightning can strike up to 15km away from the thundercloud, even after the rain has stopped.

Kuala Lumpur

Source: New Straits Times, By Z.A. HARTONO. 26 September 2018

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