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No Place Outside Is Safe When Thunderstorms Are In The Area!

Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. -- A 'Phase-2 Lightning Warning' has been issued for your location; what do you do?

You're on the beach and you hear thunder; what do you do?

Lightning is the leading source of weather deaths in Florida, killing more than nearly all other weather combined. Lightning also inflicts life-long severe debilitating injuries on many more than it kills.

Central Florida is 'Lightning Alley', with the most lightning in the U.S. Our lightning season usually starts in late May and continues through September.

Lightning safety for 45 SW and KSC employees has two major categories: on-base and off-base procedures.

When on-base, listen for the lightning advisories.

A 'Phase-1 Lightning Watch' means lightning is expected within five nautical miles of the specified location(s) and is issued up to 30 minutes before the lightning is expected to occur. Lightning within five nautical miles (about 6 "normal" statute miles) is close enough to be dangerous -- the next strike could be to you!

A 'Phase-2 Lightning Warning' is issued when lightning is imminent or occurring within five nautical miles of the specified location(s). Follow your approved local procedures when you hear these alerts.

If you don't have approved local procedures, then develop them. Until then, use the following guidelines. If outdoors and a Phase 1 Lightning Watch is issued and you are near proper shelter, finish vital activities quickly and go inside. If you are not near proper shelter, stop activities immediately and go to proper shelter. Proper shelter is a large fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing, or a vehicle with a solid metal top and solid metal sides. If outdoors and a Phase 2 Lightning Warning is issued, you are in danger -- go inside a proper building or proper vehicle immediately! If indoors and a Phase 1 Lightning Watch or Phasse-2 Warning is issued, stay inside until the Watch or Warning is cancelled.

The weather forecasts for CCAFS/KSC are available at www.patrick.af.mil/weather.
When off-base, you still need to practice lightning safety. Three slogans summarize off-base lightning safety.

1) No Place Outdoors Is Safe, When Thunderstorms Are In The Area!

2) When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

3) Half An Hour Since Thunder Roars, Now It's Safe To Go Outdoors!
Use the four levels of lightning safety.

Level-1: Schedule outdoor activities to avoid the lightning hazard as much as possible. Use the local forecasts from the National Weather Service at Melbourne
(www.srh.noaa.gov/mlb). Know the local weather patterns. The National Weather Service Graphical Hazardous Weather Outlook is issued each morning and includes a map indicating where lightning will most likely occur during the next 24 hours. To view the daily lightning forecast, choose "Local" beneath the "Current Hazards" title from the left-side menu or click directly on the "Hazards" thumbnail toward the middle of the webpage. Read the updated forecasts throughout the day; easiest to use is the 'Local Forecast by City, ST or Zip Code' search. Listen to NOAA All Hazards Radio (formerly NOAA Weather Radio) for updated forecasts. Remember, the words thunder or thunderstorms mean lightning is expected.

Level-2: Know when and where to go for lightning safety. Watch the skies for signs of approaching or locally developing thunderstorms. If you hear thunder, the storm is getting close enough to be a danger -- go to a safe place immediately! A safe place from lightning is a large fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing, such as a typical house, office, school, or store. A vehicle with a solid metal roof and solid metal sides also offers good protection, e.g. a typical car, bus, or truck. When indoors, stay away from conducting paths to the outside: corded telephones (except for emergencies), electrical appliances and wiring, and plumbing.

Level-3: Risk reduction. If you must be outside with thunderstorms in the area, you are in danger. Only do this if there is no alternative. While going to a safe location is much better, you can reduce your risk, but not eliminate it. Avoid elevated places, wide-open areas like sports fields and beaches, and tall isolated objects. Do not go under trees to get dry. Avoid swimming, boating, fishing, or being near the edge of large bodies of water. Open small structures such as pavilions and rain shelters provide no lightning protection.

Level-4: First aid. All lightning deaths are from cardiac arrest or stopped breathing at the time of the lightning strike. CPR or rescue breathing is the recommended first aid. Have someone call 9-1-1. If an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is available, use it on victims with cardiac arrest. If the cardiac arrest is due to fibrillation, the AED works much better than CPR. If it is not fibrillation, then the AED won't fire and you should resume CPR.

More information on lightning safety is available at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov. For lightning safety training, contact Mr. Bill Roeder at the 45th Weather Squadron (william.roeder@patrick.af.mil, 853-8410).