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Lightning storms can pose serious risk

July 07, 2014


 Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist

 (Office)  413-967-2296             (Cell) 413-237-6743




Lightning storms can pose serious risk

Emergency Department Physician Offers Lightning Safety Tips


Ware –The start of summer brings warmer weather that often leads to the rumble of thunder. While lightning displays in the summer sky can be quite spectacular, lightning is completely unpredictable, and can be deadly.


As of June, there have been seven lightning fatalities this year around the country. In the United States, an average of 51 people are killed each year by lightning and hundreds more are severely injured, according to the National Weather Service.

“Lightning can cause a victim’s heart to stop and seriously affect your internal organs,” said Dr. Roger Lafleur, Emergency Department physician on staff at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware.  “But it’s important to know that a person’s risk for lightning injury is most consistently related to their failure to take appropriate precautions."


Those who survive a lightning strike often report a variety of symptoms, some long-term, including memory loss, dizziness, sleep disorders, numbness, irritability, fatigue, depression, muscle spasms, weakness, and stiffness in various joints.


The American College of Emergency Physicians offers the following safety guidelines whether caught outside during a thunderstorm or in the safety of your home:

  • Seek shelter when a thunderstorm is approaching (you are much safer indoors or inside an enclosed car).
  • Avoid tall, isolated structures, such as tall, single trees or flag poles; don’t hold a “lightning rod” such as a golf club, umbrella, or tent pole.
  • Stay away from open fields, open structures or vehicles, or contact with conductive material, such as computers, telephones, water pipes, or fences.
  • Avoid being near, on, or in water.
  • Turn off, unplug, and stay away from electrical appliances, televisions, computers and power tools. Stay away from windows, fireplaces and water pipes and drains.
  • Do not use the telephone.


Dr. Lafleur noted that there has been some discussion in the media over the past years that iPods or similar devices during storms can attract lightning-strike injuries. “The true concern is that when lightning strikes an iPod or other metal device, the metal conducts the electricity resulting in more serious harm caused by contact burns from these items,” he said.


The American College of Emergency Physicians also suggests following the “30-30 Rule:” seek shelter if you hear thunder within 30 seconds of the lightning flash. Then, wait at least 30 minutes after the last lighting flash or thunder to resume normal activity. If you see a person struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 immediately and begin CPR if the victim is not breathing.




Dr. Roger Lafleur is one of the board certified Emergency Physicians who provides expert care in the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Emergency Department. The mission of the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Emergency Department is to provide timely and exceptional care.  With our 30-minute pledge, our goal is for a provider to see every patient within 30 minutes of their arrival at our facility.  Check out iTriage, a smartphone-based application for Android and iPhone to see our actual ER wait times.  For more information visit or find us on facebook.