Why Having a Lightning Detector Isn’t Enough

  • Aug 29, 2016

Why Not?


Lightning detector alerts have been busy this summer as weather conditions have been perfect for lightning strikes throughout the United States. In the month of July alone, Lee County, Florida racked up an impressive 83,648 total lightning strikes. While the U.S. loses an average of only 49 people to lightning strikes each year, 30 lightning deaths have already been recorded as of August 26, 2016. Even though lightning detectors and alerting systems are all over the U.S., the annual lightning death total has the potential to be more than average this year. But why?

Benefits of a Lightning Detector

Lightning detectors and alerting systems are a critical advancement to lightning safety. From advanced monitoring and alerting systems that can be installed at public areas and businesses to simple mobile applications, lightning safety information is accessible to practically everyone in the U.S. Lightning detectors can warn of approaching storms, assess the probability for other dangerous conditions and give the all-clear sign when lightning is no longer a threat. The problem with lightning detectors is that they cannot protect people unless people react to them quickly, seriously and without question.

How to React to a Lightning Alert

When a lightning detector sends out an alert, be it a horn blast, strobe light or text message, reacting immediately is necessary for protecting lives and critical infrastructure. Lightning detectors send out alerts when pulses of lightning are within a certain radius (normally 8-10 miles) of the area. Oftentimes, lightning will not be visible from the at-risk area. This is a protective measure designed to leave enough time to seek shelter before lightning is a threat to safety. The biggest mistake made when reacting to lightning alerts is not taking the warning seriously.

  • When you receive a lightning alert, move yourself and others to shelter immediately, even if you think the alert may be false. No outdoor event is worth putting yourself or others in danger. Remember: lightning can strike in clear skies, without the presence of a storm.
  • Do not leave shelter until your lightning detector issues an all-clear signal when the storm moves at least 10 miles away from your location. Just because the storm moved through your area doesn’t mean it is far enough away or that there isn’t another one coming. Wait for the all-clear sign to simplify the decision-making process. Take the pressure out of your hands.