Thunderstorm safety tips from the American Red Cross

When thunderstorms are rolling your way, stay safe with these helpful tips from the American Red Cross:

Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, ­lightning flashes or increasing wind.

Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.

If a severe thunderstorm ­warning is issued, take shelter in a ­substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.

If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. It can strike up to 10 miles from the area in which it is raining and you do not have to see clouds for it to happen. If ­thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.

Turn off and unplug appliances well before a storm nears. Do not rely on a surge protector to save appliances from a lightning strike. Unplug it as well.

Turn off your air conditioner to protect the compressor from a power surge and avoid a costly repair job.

Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Stay away from elec­trical outlets, ­appliances, ­computers, power tools and TVs. Take off headsets and stop playing video games. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead. A direct strike isn’t neces­sary for ­lightning voltage to enter your home through phone lines, electrical wires, cables and plumbing.

Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.

Avoid water and contact with pipes including sinks, baths and faucets. Do not wash dishes, shower or bathe ­during a ­thunderstorm. Also avoid ­washers and dryers since they not only connect with the ­plumbing and electrical systems, but also contain an electrical path from the outside through the dryer vent.

If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid ­touching metal or other ­surfaces that ­conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

Don’t forget your pets. Dog houses are not lightning-safe and dogs chained to trees can easily fall ­victim to a lightning strike.

If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, ­dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.

Source: American Red Cross and Safe Electricity