Lightning Safety Awareness – Get the Facts


lightning strike at night, home in foreground

It’s National Lightning Safety Awareness Week. It’s good timing because July is the month with the most cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), four people have been killed by lightning so far this year. On average, 43 people died of lightning strikes each year over a 10-year period. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability. Your odds of being struck in a given year are about 1/1,222,000. Your odds of being struck in your lifetime if you live to be 80 are about 1/15,300.

From 2006 through 2019, 418 people were struck and killed by lightning in the United States.

  • 2/3 of the deaths occurred to people engaged in outdoor leisure activities
  • Males accounted for 79% of all fatalities
  • Fishermen accounted for four times as many fatalities as golfers
  • Beach activities and camping each accounted for about twice as many deaths as golf
  • Of work-related activities, farming was most dangerous
  • Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida are the top four states with the highest recorded number of lightning strikes
  • Florida ranks first in lightning strike fatalities
  • 1/3 of all lightning related injuries occur indoors
  • Lightning can have a range of up to 10 miles from the thunderstorm. It’s important to go inside at first sign of an approaching storm and to say inside up to 30 minutes after a storm has passed

Did you know that there are five ways that lightning can strike you?

Check out lightning myths & facts

NWS offers these tips about what you need to know to stay safe outdoors:

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips – If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Never lie flat on the ground
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

For many years, the advice was to assume a crouch position if caught outside, but NWS stopped recommending the crouch in 2008 because it simply doesn’t provide significant protection

Indoor Lightning Safety

Some victims were struck inside homes or buildings while they were using electrical equipment or corded phones. Others were in contact with plumbing, outside doors, or window frames. Avoid contact with these electrical conductors when a thunderstorm.

  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) says that power surges caused by lightning can damage the electronics in your home. They offer this advice:

  • Lightning protection systems intercept lightning strikes and provide grounding path for dangerous electricity to discharge safely, leaving occupants and homes safe from harm
  • Panel box surge protective devices (SPDs) serve as the first line of defense against harmful home electrical surges, limiting voltages by diverting currents at the electrical service entrance. Only qualified electricians should install SPDs
  • Point of use surge protectors protect electronics plugged into the device from surges, must be replaced over time or after a major surge event
  • Power strips do not provide surge protection
  • No surge device can handle a direct lightning strike. Unplug sensitive electronics well before a storm to prevent damage

Additional resources

Beach lovers’ guide to Memorial Day in New England


sea shells, sunglasses and a facial mask_ beachgoing in the pandemic

The good news is that it’s Memorial Day Weekend, states are cautiously beginning to open beaches and parks, and the weather looks promising. The bad news is that the virus has not gone away so visiting your favorite coastal spots will come with many restrictions and limitations. If you are expecting a “normal” experience, you may be disappointed. You should “know before you go” and consider taking small steps to favorite outdoor activities rather than jumping in headlong … perhaps stay closer to home base to test the waters. Definitely don’t drive to another state without checking first – some states require 14-day quarantines for out-of-state visitors! But even if there is no quarantine requirement, check the status and availability of your destination, along with learning any rules and requirements that may be in place. Don’t count on lifeguards or public restrooms. Plan to bring face coverings, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and possibly your own food and beverages. Even if some restaurants are open for takeout or outdoor dining, they will likely have limited capacity.

We amassed some resources to help you plan before you go to the beach.

First, how safe are outdoor activities? The New York Times checked with experts who say that being outdoors with is probably fine and if you adhere to appropriate social distancing and think things through. They warn about lowering your guard too much and caution about outdoor dining, using locker rooms at pools, and navigating crowds in places like beaches. See What We Know About Your Chances of Catching the Virus Outdoors

They suggest that:

Ideally, people should socialize only with people who live in their homes, they say. If you decide to meet friends, you’re increasing your risk, but you can take precautions. It’s important to keep gatherings small. Don’t share food, utensils or beverages; keep your hands clean; and keep at least six feet from people who don’t live in your home.

 

Be cautious as you venture into public outdoor spaces … we all need to stay safe ourselves and keep our families and neighbors safe. Keep your expectations low, be flexible, and avoid crowded spots. This first weekend “free” might be too crowded, a walk or a bike ride in your local area might be the best bet. Public health officials will be keeping tabs on how things go in this first big holiday of the pandemic and it will affect how things go over the course of the summer, so let’s all be careful, safe, patient and respectful. We don’t want to undo all the good we did by staying at home over the last many weeks!

 

Traffic is down, danger is up on the nation’s roadways


speeding car approaching a city
If you need to venture out on the roads, be sure to drive defensively! According to recent reports, many streets and highways have turned into a dangerous environment of deserted streets given over to drag racing and speeding competitions. With so many businesses shut down and people under a stay-at-home advisory during the coronavirus crisis, nationwide, traffic has dropped by  more than 40%, according to transportation-data firm Inrix. Some large metro highways report even higher drops of between 50% to 70%. But if you think less volume makes for safer roads, think again! Unfortunately, people seem to be driving much more recklessly.

According to a report in Agency Checklists, new data from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation shows that despite a 50% reduction in overall traffic on Massachusetts roads, fatalities doubled in number during April. But this troubling trend is not unique to Massachusetts. Standard Publishing talks about a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA):

“State highway safety officials across the country are reporting a sharp spike in speeding incidents. Multiple states have reported speed increases, with Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska and Utah noting a significant surge in vehicles clocked at 100 mph or more.”

In addition to the increase in MA fatalities, Rhode Island and Nevada state officials report that pedestrian fatalities are increasing. Even before the recent reports, pedestrian fatalities have been creeping up over time and pedestrian deaths are now at their highest level since 1988.

The Washington Post cites both the GHSA report and law enforcement and traffic experts throughout the country, and the story is the same: speeders have taken over the roadways. In addition to drag racing and high-speed competitions, the post Post reports:

What’s more, those speeding drivers are also more distracted. A study released Thursday by the data analytics company Zendrive found motorists are braking harder and using their phones more while driving. The analysis of millions of miles of driving data based on smartphone sensors found speeding is up by 27 percent on average, while hard braking climbed 25 percent. Phone usage on the nation’s roadways steadily increased in the weeks following the stay-at-home guidelines, up by 38 percent in mid-April, according to the report.

The Post says that people may think they can get away with reckless driving because law enforcement have limited resources or have reallocated resources during the pandemic. And some psychologists think it may be for excitement to counter the boredom or as an emotional release.

Hopefully, this troubling trend is a shutdown anomaly that will ease as states begin gradually reopening. But if and when you need to be out on the roads – particularly the highways – be super alert, avoid distractions, wear your seat belt, and keep your own speed down!

 

What you need to know about wearing face masks


young woman wearing a face mask

It’s not yet clear when stay-at-home restrictions might be lifted – they’ll vary by state. NPR maintains a handy state-by-state list of How Each State Is Responding To COVID-19 that talks about various restrictions. But one thing is clear – until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus, we won’t be going back to life as we knew it in the foreseeable future. It’s likely that restrictions on public places will be lifted gradually and that we will still be practicing advanced hygiene, and social distancing. And more and more of us will be wearing face masks or face coverings in public places to protect ourselves and others. The CDC has recommended this practice, and many communities and states are requiring them in all or some public places.

Whether they are required or not, many health experts point to the advantages in a pandemic. We know that the people can have coronavirus for a period of time before they show symptoms; in fact, the CDC says that up to 25% of people with coronavirus may not show any symptoms at all, but they can still be shedding the virus when they cough or sneeze. A face mask protects others against this. Plus, although face coverings aren’t a replacement for other protections, they offer an additional measure of safety for the wearer, particularly in places and situations where it may be difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance.

The New York Times has a handy User’s Guide to Face Masks (They are making coronavirus-related content freely available to all). The guide has many useful tips about the various types of masks, ideas for how to make masks and where to find patterns, and a brief video of how to make an easy no-cost, no-sew reusable face mask out of an old t-shirt. They also offer tips for how to put a mask on, how take it off, and how to clean it. It pretty much covers any questions you might have and offers links to other resources.

We’ve summarized some of their best-practice mask tips as well as tips from the CDC:

  • Wear a mask at all times in public spaces
  • Unless you have a health condition requiring it, don’t use a surgical mask or PPE intended for healthcare workers
  • Wash your hands before putting on a face mask and after taking it off
  • When removing it, avoid touching the front of the mask
  • A mask should cover your nose and mouth, going from near the bridge of your nose to down under your chin and stretch about halfway or more toward your ears.
  • Avoid touching your face while you are wearing the mask
  • Continue maintaining 6-feet of social distancing between you and others
  • Wash the mask after use

Children and masks

Your young children may be afraid to see their parents, loved ones – indeed, everyone, suddenly all covering their faces. Masks could provoke fear, sadness or just general anxiety about a stressful time. The New York Times talks about children who fear masks, noting that “One reason children may find masks disconcerting is that the ability to recognize — and read — faces is much weaker in young children than it will be by adolescence.” Children start developing facial identification skills around age 6, but it’s not until about age 14 that they have fully developed this skill. The article offers ideas for how to help children acclimate to face masks by explaining how they help others. Among their suggestions are to make the association between masks and superheroes.

The CDC says that children under 2 years of age should not wear masks. Should kids above that age wear masks? While children are less likely to become seriously ill from coronavirus, they still might be infected and therefore potentially infecting others. The New York Times talks about the issue of young children wearing face makes, noting that:

Masks are most useful in public places where your child is likely to come within six feet of another person (for example in a grocery store or pharmacy) and in areas where the virus has been spreading quickly, the C.D.C. said.

They offer tips for parents about when masks are advisable and ideas for how to persuade your children to use them.

More resources on face masks

 

Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Care Kit


bored couple at home furing coronavirus

If you are one of the millions who are confined to home during the Coronavirus outbreak, we have scoured the web for some of the best advice, tips and tools to help you make the most of things .. from working at home, keeping safe, stocking up, keeping kids safe and amused and dealing with anxiety and boredom.

Working from home

8 Tips To Make Working From Home Work For You – “Never before have workers telecommuted on such a broad scale. Millions of people are trying to work from home — if they can, of course. NPR’s Life Kit wants to help WFH work for you, especially if you’re doing so for the first time.”

Working From Home Because of COVID-19? These Tech Ideas Can Make It EasierConsumer Reports offers tools and services, to help you  increase productivity.

How to Set Up a Home Workstation to Avoid Muscle Strain, Headaches, and Sore Eyes – If the coronavirus outbreak is forcing you to work from home, follow CR’s advice for your home office, kitchen, or bedroom

How to Stay Sane When Working From Home With Kids – tips from Wirecutter

Keeping safe!

These Common Household Products Can Destroy the Novel CoronavirusConsumer Reports shows you how to use them and tells you which products to stay away from.

How to Clean and Disinfect Yourself, Your Home, and Your Stuff – Wired magazine offers their best in-depth best practices for keeping yourself (and just about everything else) clean and virus-free.

How You Can Kill Coronavirus in Your Car Without Damaging Interior Surfaces

Should You Disinfect Your Phone? Here’s How.

List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 – EPA.gov lists common household products and their effectiveness in protecting against Coronavirus.

Beware: Scams & hoaxes

Beware of Products Touting False Coronavirus Claims – Regulators and watchdogs warn consumers of hucksters playing on fears to make profits.

Phishing in the Time of COVID-19: How to Recognize Malicious Coronavirus Phishing Scams – good tips from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

How to Avoid Coronavirus Phishing Scams – Watch out for a surge in emails from cybercriminals pitching COVID-19 health information and fake cures

Stocking Up

Grocery shopping during the coronavirus: Wash your hands, keep your distance and limit trips Washington Post offers tips, including ideas for people who are 65 or older, or immune compromised.  .

How to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus When Grocery ShoppingConsumer Reports offers precautions to take whether you shop in-store or online

Grocery rules for your coronavirus lockdown: Buy beans, freeze milk, don’t hoard, and more – Who knew you could freeze milk? CNN offers tips for the best foods to buy when  you’re going to be stuck at home.

Wirecutter: The Best Meal Kit Delivery Services

Keeping Kids Safe & Engaged

How to Cope at Home With Kids During the Coronavirus Outbreak – Keep your family healthy—physically and mentally—and minimize spread of the virus

How Parents Can Keep Kids Busy (and Learning) in Quarantine – from The Atlantic: As American schools close, parents are suddenly faced with the challenge of keeping their children occupied at home. Here are some ideas.

Wirecutter: Our Favorite Educational Apps and Learning Games for Kids

PopSugar: A List of Indoor Activities That Will Keep Kids Entertained While Stuck at Home

Passing the Time

New York Times: Comforting Streaming TV Shows for Stressful Times

Time: A Guide to the Most Calming, Anxiety-Free Content You Can Stream Right Now

NPR’s Fresh Air Archive

Fun for you & for the kids: Monterey Bay Live Web Cams

NY Times: Can I Jog Outside? Is That Drinking Fountain Safe? Exercise in the Time of Coronavirus

Bicycling: How to Ride Safely Amid Coronavirus Concerns

A 20-minute workout is perfect for social distancing – video and tips from the Washington Post

Dealing with stress

Coronavirus anxiety: Why the outbreak feeds worries and five simple ways to reduce coronavirus anxiety

Cleveland Clinic: 5 Ways to Manage Stress During the Coronavirus Outbreak – Tips for preventing a mental meltdown

Anxiety can be a general feeling of apprehension, fear, nervousness, or worry. It can also be a sudden attack of panicky feelings, or fear of a certain situation or object. Learn more about anxiety disorders and treatment options from Medline.