Published on: Monday, June 1, 2015 Takoma Park Newsletter

Storm alert: Staying safe in Takoma Park

Takoma Park Emergency Preparedness Committee

Takoma Park is officially a Tree City. So we all know what summer storms can mean: downed trees, downed power lines and no electricity, sometimes for days.

But storms also bring hazards that have nothing to do with the tree canopy. And while many of Takoma Park’s nature lovers run to their front porches at the first rumble of thunder, ready to watch in wonder as lightning paints the sky – don’t do it. That beautiful summer storm can also be dangerous.

Here’s how you can stay safe.

Be prepared

  • Secure outdoor objects that can blow away or cause damage – otherwise that lawn chair, or the empty kiddy pool may wind up half a block away.
  • Postpone/halt outdoor activities. The Takoma Park Recreation Department carefully monitors Doppler radar and other weather reports to keep outdoor events and activities safe, clearing playing fields in case of lightning, for example. If you’re not sure whether your outdoor activity is going to be canceled, call the department’s inclement weather hotline, 301- 891-7101 ext. 5605.
  • Get inside a home, building, or hard-top automobile (not a convertible); although you can be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Contrary to popular belief, rubbersoled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
  • Close windows and secure outside doors. If your house has outside window shutters, make sure these are secured. Close window blinds, shades or curtains.
  • Unplug any electronic equipment well before the storm arrives. (Yes, this includes cell phone, computer and other chargers!) A fried modem or router can put you off the internet for days.
  • Unplug appliances and other electrical items, and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage. No AC means it will be very hot in the house – but that is better than cool, drenched and in danger.

Once the storm has arrived

  • Avoid contact with corded phones and devices including those plugged into electric outlets for recharging. Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are OK to use.
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes and do not do laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
  • Avoid natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
  • Avoid hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the water.
  • Avoid isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas. Instead, take shelter in a sturdy building.
  • Avoid contact with anything metal— lawn tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.
  • 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.

This article appeared in the June 2015 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.