Tips to avoid lightning strikes

There are about an average of 12.5 lightning-related fatalities per year in Malaysia.

By Huzraifah Atikah

Do you know that Malaysia has one of the highest number of lightning strikes in the world?

According to Prof Mohd Zainal Abidin Kadir from the Institute of Power Engineering at Universiti Tenaga Nasional, there are about an average of 12.5 lightning-related fatalities per year in Malaysia.

He said there were 125 fatalities and 157 injuries due to lightning strikes from 2008 to 2017 

Out of the 365 days in a year, Malaysia sees an average of about 240 days of thunderstorms.

Although that’s the case, it seems Malaysians are still unprepared for lightning strikes. 

Yesterday, a Myanmar guy died after he was struck by lightning at the Setia Alam Badminton Academy field at about 5pm. 

The 19-year-old victim, identified as Rohimullah, was there to watch a football friendly match between Rohingya Klang FC and Super Nova FC. 

The organiser and referee of the match, Zainizam Zambri, said the victim was believed to be using his mobile phone during the incident. 

Zainizam said he had called off the match 30 minutes earlier and told everyone at the field to leave the area to avoid any unwanted incidents from the heavy rain. 

However, lightning suddenly struck and five people at the field collapsed to the ground.

Zainizam said he and several others approached the victims five minutes after the incident. 

"We couldn't help them earlier because there was still lightning and we were worried for our safety," he added. 

Unfortunately, Rohimullah was found lifeless while the other four victims were in critical condition. 

Even though such cases happen yearly, it seems many people still do not take it seriously. 

It is probably because some may think it will never happen to them. 

So do Malaysians really know what to do during a thunderstorm? 

What are the things you need to do you in order to keep yourself safe from being hit by lightning?

Well if you are clueless and not sure what to do, you can follow these tips:

1. Stay away from open fields or hilltops

Keep in mind that lightning often strikes the tallest object in the area, thus avoid standing on open fields or any hilltops. 

Do look for low-lying area like a valley and stay there until the storm passes. 

You need to crouch down with your heels touching and your head between your knees-this will make you a smaller target.

Do not lie down flat because you need to minimise your contact with the ground. 

Always remember that lightning can be fatal up to one hundred feet away from the spot it strikes!

2. Avoid being in the rain, swimming or playing water sports on rainy days

Since Malaysian weather keeps on changing, check the weather forecast before planning any activities for the day.

This way you can avoid going to the swimming pool, river, lake or beach on rainy days. 

Furthermore, if you ever find yourself in water during a thunderstorm, get out of the water as fast as you can.

Be aware that indoor swimming is not safe as well. 

Do not come back to the water until 30 minutes after the last lightning strike because the storm may not be over. 

3. Do not stand near trees or tall isolated objects

The tallest trees are often struck by lightning, that is why no matter what, do not stand below a tall tree. 

If you happened to be in the forest, stay near lower trees, it will keep you safer than anywhere else. 

Do not stand in the rain using an umbrella because this will increase the risk of getting hit by lightning as well. 

Lastly, you need to also avoid tall objects like lamp posts.

4. Avoid metal objects like fences or exposed pipes

This last tip is the most important one to remember because metal conducts electricity.

If you are carrying large metal objects, let it go immediately. 

You need to understand that even small metal objects, like piercings or electronic devices could put yourself in danger.

If you are riding a bicycle, get off and crouch to the ground. Most bikes are made of metal and are excellent lightning conductors. 

Rubber shoes or other rubber objects will not actually protect you from metal's conducting properties.

So please keep in mind that your safety is important during this period. 

Stay safe people!