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NOAA kicks off Lightning Safety Week

Monday - 6/24/2013, 4:01pm  ET

ASHINGTON - NOAA wants residents to brush up on their knowledge of lightning safety, considering June, July and August are peak months for lightning storms and lightning deaths.

June 23 through 29 is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Lightning Safety Week.

"This year so far there have been, across the U.S., seven fatalities due to lightning," says Kim Hylander, a spokeswoman with Prince William County Fire and Rescue.

On average 54 people die and hundreds of others are seriously hurt every year by lightning, she says.

Now that summertime is here, people are spending more time outdoors. So the question of how to protect your family, your kids and yourself is top of mind.

The most important thing is when you hear thunder to immediately seek shelter indoors, Hylander says.

If you can hear thunder, Hylander says, you are close enough to get hit by lightning. But lightning often comes before the rain, so take cover when the skies start to darken.

During the storm, stay away from anything that puts you in direct contact with electricity.

"Don't get on your cellphone, cord-phones, computers or any type of electrical equipment," Hylander says.

Stay away from doors and windows. Also avoid water since it conducts electricity, she says.

Even when the rain stops and the skies turn blue -- it still might not be not safe to head back out. Lightning often strikes outside of the area where it rained heavily,

"A single bolt of lightning can reach over five miles in length and carry millions of volts of electricity," Hylander says.

If you're stuck outside, do not hide underneath a tree since it acts as a natural lightning rod, according to NOAA's storm safety tips. Stay away from lakes, ponds and don't stand in any puddles.

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