Sit. Rep. #148: Lightning Strike

1- I normally only think about Cloud-to-Ground lightning strikes when I am considering setting up camp.  Lightning travels at the speed of light.  But the associated thunder travels at the speed of sound.  Sound travels through air at about 1,100 feet per second.  To estimate the distance of the lightning strike is to count by seconds (one potato, two potato, three potato…) between the sight of the lightning bolt and the rumble of the thunder.  For every 5 seconds, the lightning is about 1 mile away.  The bolt can discharge over 10 miles from the thunderstorm.

2- Here are the different ways a person can get hit and hurt:

NASA Lightning
  • Direct Strike – the bolt hits you.
  • Streamer – a branch off of the main bolt strikes a person.
  • Splash or Side Flash – a bounce hit off of another object.
  • Surface Arcing – stays on the surface and spreads out.
  • Ground Current or Step Voltage – voltage in the ground from a nearby strike.
  • Contact – think about touching a conducting material like a wire fence
  • Blunt Injury – the bolt hits an object and the object shatters or explodes.  Or the shock wave from the explosion.
3- What is the FIRST RULE of First Aid?  Please review Sit. Rep. # 29.

4- When someone is struck by lightning they will be injured!  Here is a partial list of possible signs & symptoms:

  • Burns – electrical or steam burns or heat burns
  • Shock
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Memory loss (what happened?), amnesia
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stops breathing
  • Eye injuries, vision impairment
  • Eardrums ruptured, hearing loss
  • Seizures
  • Paralyzed
  • Dislocated limbs
  • Muscle aches, tingling sensation
  • Broken bones

A lightning strike, in other words, “scrambles” the human body inside and out.

5- Lightning can strike again at the same place.  Therefore your first priority is always yourself!  Your second priority is to remove the victim to a safer area to begin First Aid.  Get 911 help on the way!  Roughly 90% of people that are struck survive.  First Aid is essential to their survival.

  • CPR if necessary, Note: Use the Carotid arteries for checking the pulse.  Distal pulse locations may be impacted by the lightning strike.  It may take up to 30 minutes for the body to reset itself from being scrambled.
  • Maintain the airway
  • Protect the cervical spine
  • Treat for Shock, keep warm, keep them calm
  • Transport to a medical facility

6- Meeting plans & notes:

Review lightning avoidance:

  1. Know the local weather, watch the weather, anticipate the weather
  2. Most lightning strikes happen between local noon and 6 pm – 2/3 of all casualties happen in this time frame
  3. Seek shelter
  4. No lightning rods like: golf clubs, pack frames, tall trees, metal tent poles, fishing poles, flag poles…
  5. Move off and away from mountain tops, ridges, peaks, summits, open areas/meadows, utility poles, ski lifts, boat docks (esp sail boats with tall masts)…
  6. Get out of and off of the water
  7. Spread out your patrol so not everyone gets hit at the same time.  Stay in visual sight of each other.
  8. You may get a VERY SHORT warning of strike: Hair stands on end, a visual Blue halo (St. Elmo’s Fire), high-pitched hissing or crackling sounds.
  9. Either – immediately move to a safe area.  Or get low to the ground.  Feet close together.  Crouch down low.  Wrap hands & arms around your legs/knees – do not touch the ground with your hands or arms (feet only).  Head down.  Present a short, non-sharp target to the lightning bolt.

M: What did the tornado say to the sports car?
N: What to go for a spin?

O: My neighbor’s house was struck by lightning.
P: That struck close to home.

Impetro Parata,

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