In the last few months there has been a tremendous growth in contacts around the world for lightning safety. Zooms have included people in dozens of countries, and the U.S. National Lightning Safety Council is considered to be a model for other regions. Meaningful contacts have been established in the Indian Subcontinent, Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and the Caribbean. As a result, the awareness of the lightning threat is now being viewed more completely than before, when so many countries struggled to develop an idea of how to proceed. Global members of the lightning safety community have turned out to be dedicated, passionate, and anxious to make a difference. Based on various detection methods, we know very well when, where, and how much lightning occurs everywhere. That’s not the problem…but lightning safety is an inter-disciplinary topic where knowledge of lightning needs to be coupled with the understanding of the vulnerability of people, and how to reach them with the correct information.
Q. Can you tell us about a specific project you are working on or are passionate about in the study of lightning or the lightning safety awareness movement?
For the last two decades, I have been working on the question of ‘How many people are killed and injured by lightning in the world every year?’ Well, that’s a very tough question to answer. I estimated 24,000 deaths and 240,000 injuries a year about 15 years ago. Sometimes I think that is way too large, but at other times I’m afraid it may be too small. I am trying various ways to find out, but it’s not easy since so many lightning casualties are in countries with poor infrastructure and enormous exposure to lightning.
Q. Do you have any other comments or words of wisdom for readers?
Members of the Council are often asked for a simple way to be safe from lightning without going to too much trouble. The only answer is to go inside a substantial building with grounded wiring and plumbing, or a fully enclosed metal-topped vehicle. Outside of those situations, there is no certain safety. It doesn’t matter what you’re carrying or wearing, or how you stand. If you are outside of a lightning-safe building or vehicle you are vulnerable to lightning. It’s not a message that is usually wanted to be heard, but that’s the real answer.