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Lightning Safety

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Transcribed from the dubiously-prepared USFS guidelines on file at Arid Peak Lookout.

"During your visit to a lookout, it is absolutely essential that you know and follow the prescribed safety precautions for your personal safety during a thunderstorm. Lookouts are built on prominent peaks, so lightning strikes are probable. After years of research and experience, the Forest Service has learned to ground Lookouts to prevent injury or death from lightning strikes. Structures are wrapped in #2 copper wire that is connected to grounding wires. Depending upon soil conditions, these ground wires may extend eighty feet away from the structure. [For a detailed explanation of USFS grounding techniques, please refer to this official document. (PDF, 4.7MB)] Do not, under any circumstances, interfere with the grounding wires or air connections. As a lookout visitor, know the weather forecast. Be watchful and attentive to approaching thunderstorms. Determine how far away the storm is: count the seconds between a lightning flash and the resulting thunderclap; each five seconds equals one mile. For example, if there is a thirteen second lapse in time, the storm is about two and a half miles away. If the storm is more than five miles away (more than 25 seconds), go indoors (lookout cabin or vehicle) and stay dry. Stay away from any metal objects in the lookout tower. Turn off any cellphones, computers, radios etc. If the storm is one to five miles away (that’s 5-25 seconds), do not get in between any metal objects (including portable radios) you may have brought with you. If the storm is less than one mile away (less than five seconds), stay indoors and away from windows. Wait until the storm has sufficiently passed to resume normal activities."