Baltimore County News
Captain Lonnie Ledford, Baltimore County Fire Department
A few weeks ago, in Part 1 of this blog, I covered thunderstorm watches, warnings and a few safety tips. Let’s pick up right where we left off, including some tips that apply just as well to the winter storms that are just around the corner.
Lightning rods attached to structures provide the safest pathway to ground for homes and businesses. If your home does not have one, the current from a lightning strike may travel via the home’s electrical or plumbing systems and could start a fire. Also, remember to unplug sensitive electrical equipment such as computers and entertainment systems that are susceptible to electrical surges. You should seek shelter when the first rumble of thunder is heard, because if you can hear the thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Also, remain inside for at least one-half hour after the thunder stops.
Another electrical hazard that may be encountered in a storm is the possibility of downed electrical wires. DO NOT try to approach or move these wires as there may be a ground current that could be deadly. If in a vehicle, do not try to drive over wires on the ground or under hanging wires near a roadway. Getting within several feet of a downed wire may cause it to arc. If the wire is arcing or smoking, call 911 to report the hazard.
Downed power lines routinely lead to power outages in an area. Caution should be used when dealing with these situations as well. Battery powered lights should be used instead of open flame candles and oil lamps due to their inherent fire dangers. Portable generators produce deadly carbon monoxide gas that can build up and create a toxic atmosphere inside of a structure. Several fatalities have been attributed to operating portable generators inside or too close to an occupied structure. Also, take care to utilize the proper gauge extension cords with the generator and do not overload them.
Wind created by a severe thunderstorm can also be deadly. Loose debris can be blown into the air and cause damage to structures and injure people. If you do not have permanent mounted and operating shutters on your home, closing the blinds and drapes can provide a slight buffer against debris that may break and enter a window. A heavy plastic trash bag or a tarp and duct tape should be available as a temporary repair in case of a window being broken during a storm. Make a list of items that you want to bring inside in case of a severe thunderstorm. Remember to include items such as plants, pool items, wind-chimes and flags. Patio furniture, grills and items that are too large to be brought inside or cannot be placed in a garage or shed should be tied down and secured. If there are large trees on your property they should be trimmed regularly to ensure that there are no dead branches that could be broken and fall in high winds. Dead trees near a structure should be removed to prevent damage due to being blown over in a storm.
Flash flooding commonly leads to flooded roadways. NEVER try to drive through standing or moving water. It only takes eighteen inches of water for a vehicle, including trucks and SUV’s, to become buoyant. Moving water can then push the vehicle sideways and it may rollover trapping occupants inside. When in doubt: Turn Around Don’t Drown!
Use easy to understand language to explain the sights and sounds that may be experienced by young children during a thunderstorm. Once they understand what is making the “loud boom and bright light” outside, it may help reduce their apprehension and anxiety during a storm.
· enough food and water to last for 72 hours per person
· a flashlight with spare batteries
· a battery operated radio or weather radio
Severe weather planning resources can be found at: