[6 September 2012]
The first heavy rains have hit the Highveld. As wonderful and cleansing as it may seem, the real threat and danger of lightning must be known, and a few reported cases of deaths and destruction have already come through to the emergency services.
Just over a week ago, an entire family of four was allegedly killed after being struck by lightning, and just this morning, a family battled a blaze at their home after their outside lapa caught fire during a lightning storm. The family, their neighbours and the Fire Department battled the fire, after lightning had apparently struck the thatch roof and it caught fire at the home on Piet Cronje Street in Baillie Park, Potchesftroom.
Despite the fine rain, the structure was quickly engulfed in flames and extensive damage was already done by the time the fire was put out. Luckily, even though the lapa was close to the house, there was minimal damage to the home.
Paramedics treated a 44 year old resident of the home for minor smoke inhalation injuries, but after treatment he did not wish to go to hospital and he said he would go later if the need arose.
As a reminder of the dangers of lightning, we would like to reiterate the following as guidelines to keep in mind when you are in an area of activity of an electrical storm:
-Do not stay outdoors when there is lightning; make your way into a secure, stable structure where the doors and windows are able to be shut.
-If you are out in the open and are unable to make your way in doors during an active lightning storm, lie flat on the ground until the storm has passed.
-Do not play sport outside during a lightning storm, and encourage your teams mates and friends to follow you indoors until the storm has passed.
-Do not sit in an open outside leading doorway or at an open window during the electrical storm.
-Do not seek shelter under a tree or open structure such as a bus stop shelter during an electrical storm.
In the event that you come across a person that has presumably been struck by lightning, directly or as a splash effect of the electrical current, call 084 124 immediately to get paramedics to that patient as quickly as possible. The patient may appear to be deceased in many cases as the electrical current having gone through the body stops the heart, and it will need to be restarted again. CPR is performed in long duration on these patients, where immediate activation of emergency care and starting of CPR, has a very good prognosis for these patients.
Be cautious and aware during electrical storms. Rather ensure your safety than take any unnecessary risks!
Vanessa Jackson, ER24