Summer is here and the inevitable Highveld thunderstorms are now a reality. Lightning presents three main hazards to a house that is hit directly, namely; fire danger, power surge damage and shockwave damage.
Did you know that one bolt of lightning can provide enough energy to light a city of 200 000 people for one minute?
Theunis Kotze, General Manager of ADT Inland Region, warns that people tend not to realise that direct strikes are responsible for only 5% of lightning related deaths and injuries. “There are other types of ways lightning can hurt you, ground current and side flash (where the current ricochets) account for up to 80% of lightning related injuries and or deaths.
“That’s why when you see a storm approaching you need to get indoors. It doesn’t even need to be a severe storm and there doesn’t necessarily have to be rainfall either for lightning to strike,” he points out.
Kotze offers the following tips for staying safe during a thunderstorm:
- Avoid flat, open areas. Lightning will usually hit the highest point so when you’re in an open space, there’s a higher risk of being hit as you’ll be the highest point.
- Stay away from water and don’t swim during a storm.
- Don’t take shelter under trees during storms. But if you’ve got no choice, rather take shelter under a group of shorter trees among larger trees. A thick forest is always a better option than a solitary tree or a small group of trees.
- Be aware that buildings with exposed openings such as camping shelters or pavilions are not safe.
- When in a storm, stay away from all forms of metal. Golfers should be aware that the metal in their golf clubs acts as a lightning conductor.
Storm season also puts security companies under pressure as storms play havoc with alarm systems. The high number of signals that control rooms receive during a storm can lead to delayed response times not to mention dilute critical emergency resources. In order to cope with this deluge of activity, monitoring centres have no option but to prioritise all signals that are received. Phone-in, duress, silent panics and general panic signals are prioritised in that order, followed by fire, alarm and mains failure.
“To help reduce unnecessary call outs, please contact the monitoring centre to cancel your alarm activation should your alarm go off accidentally during a storm.
Kotze offers the following additional tips around alarm use in the stormy season:
- Check the weather forecast before you leave home in the morning. If a storm is predicted, do not leave windows open that will cause curtains to move which in turn sets alarms off.
- Wind storms play havoc on outdoor detectors and beams, especially those close to vegetation. Consider bypassing beams that could cause false alarms during windstorms.
- Doors that get hit directly by wind may cause false alarms if the doors are not properly fitted or have aged leaving room for movement. Consider utilising single-sided rubber tape to close the voids and secure doors from movement.
“However if you should experience an emergency during stormy conditions, please contact the monitoring centre directly by telephone or if this isn’t possible, by activating your panic button,” concludes Kotze.