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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingNovember 22 - November 28, 2017
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When Lightning Strikes

e fb94dBy Randall C. Resch

Have you ever heard the safety phrase, "When thunder roars, go indoors?" It's a catchy ditty, but unfortunately we towmen respond to calls 24/7 regardless of weather or time of day.

Electrical shock ain't no laughing matter. Lightning—one of Mother Nature's extreme weather conditions—is capable of great bodily injury and death; strikes occur everywhere and oftentimes without notice.

Much of our work demands that we work outdoors during heavy rain and hailstorms, so there's a good chance that we'll have to face a lightning bolt that's moving faster than the speed of sound.

The Great Killer

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lightning strike fatalities are the second greatest storm killer in the United States (flooding being No. 1). In extreme weather, it's recommended that you listen to local weather stations to know what is headed your way; especially where tornadoes are prevalent.

Weather changes quickly, and the best prevention is to be prepared. When storms start to roll in, stop the activity and take cover until the thunder, downpour, or hail stops.

There's not much known about the exact moment when or if lightning will strike; however, there are a few safety considerations to consider. Your life may depend on how you react to severe storms and lightning activity.

NOAA recommends that if you hear loud and close thunder, retreat to a safe, enclosed and heavily constructed location such as a house, school, store or offices. If a structure isn't close, the second safest location would be to climb into your tow truck or wrecker, keeping the windows up and doors closed.

If a lightning strike is probable, stay in the safe location for 30 minutes or more after hearing the last clap of thunder. Lightning tends to linger, so keep in mind that another strike may be forthcoming.

Avoid locations and activities that invite the most risk, such as elevated places and tall isolated objects. Don't retreat under trees to try and keep dry, stay low, and refrain from working water recoveries or standing in pooling water. Do not carry metal objects, even with gloved hands, including holding winch cables.

Although nearly impossible for the kind of work we do, try to keep dry; a full-sized rain suit will not protect you in a lightning strike.

When calls for service take you into the great outdoors, be smart when the presence of lightning is dangerously close and find that safe zone to ride out the storm. If you've got any doubt that lightning still lingers, stay safe inside and wait it out.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, and is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame.
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