By Kathy Jefcoats
During a recent five-year span in Georgia, lightning strikes killed 11 and injured 77 people, but officials advise there are safety measures that can be taken to avoid becoming a statistic.
Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman, Battalion Chief Jacque Feilke, said most lightning deaths happen in the afternoon and evening during summer months. Also, most deaths happen when people are caught outside during a storm.
"If you are outside, get inside a building or vehicle," she said. "If you can hear the thunder, you are already at risk."
Feilke said if you cannot find shelter, avoid trees and open areas.
"Also avoid open water, tractors, bicycles, motorcycles or golf carts because they will not provide protection and may actually attract lightning," she said.
Feilke recommends using the 30/30 safety rule.
"If you see lightning and cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder, go indoors," said Feilke. "Stay indoors an additional 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder."
Enclosed vehicles are generally safe, but avoid contact with metal surfaces.
Finally, Feilke said rolling into a ball is preferable to spreading out on the ground.
"If you are outside and feel your hair standing on end, this indicates lightning is about to strike," she said. "Drop to your knees and roll forward to the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees and tuck your head down. Do not lie flat on the ground."
For more information, call Clayton County Emergency Management Services at (770) 478-8271.