Kids & Lightning Safety
Preparation for Kids
If you have kids, it’s important to teach them about thunderstorms at a very young age. Although children are often scared of storms, you can explain that storms are a natural part of our planet’s weather...just like sunshine and rain.
The National Weather Service offers some educational and fun lightning-related games and activities, including Leon’s Lightning Safety Game, Leon the Lightning Lion coloring book, and FEMA Kids to Kids: Lightning Safety by Sabrina. Science experiments, like “making a thunderstorm in a bottle” are also useful tools to help kids understand why storms occur and alleviate their fears. Consider visiting science museums in your area and when you travel to help your kids understand what causes lightning and thunder.
At home, practice storm preparedness strategies a few times per year to remind children of how they should respond when a storm hits. Child psychologists can be effective in treating kids with severe storm anxiety through relaxation therapy, storm reenactment activities, and thought readjustment.
During a Lightning Storm
Although electronic devices may keep your kids occupied and entertained during a storm, you should prohibit the use of plugged-in electronics when thunder and lightning are in the area. Keep a battery-powered TV or radio handy so that you can use these devices instead and keep your kids safe.
Consider playing a few fun card games or board games with your kids during storms while listening to weather updates on the TV or radio.
Don’t punish your kids for being scared of storms, but rather acknowledge the fear and try drown out the noise. These are some other effective strategies for calming down children during storms:
- Build a DIY tent or fort out of sheets and pillows
- Prepare your child’s favorite snack
- Play musical instruments
- Watch favorite cartoons
Pets & Lightning
Preparation for Pets
Not only can humans be struck by lightning, but dogs and other household pets can be too. The records, statistics, and research isn’t as nearly complete for lightning-related pet fatalities as it is for humans, but it is a real possibility that you must be prepared for as a pet owner.
It is never safe for your pets to remain outside during a lightning storm, and outdoor dog houses do not constitute a safe shelter. Dogs that seek shelter under trees or that are chained to metal poles are at an even greater risk of lightning strikes.
Cats that spend time outdoors tend to look for shelter under cars during storms, which is one of the most dangerous places for them to be when lightning strikes. If a car parked outdoors is struck by lightning, outdoor cats could be seriously injured or killed by the conducted electricity through the metal parts.
Don’t wait until the last minute to think about providing shelter and safety for your pet when lightning begins to strike. Decide on a safe location to bring your pets when a storm comes and make sure that all of the enclosures are secure.
Many pets, especially dogs, are fearful of thunderstorms and begin to panic even before the first bolt of lightning strikes. Find a quiet, safe area in your home that your pet will feel comfortable in during storms. You should never force your pet to stay in a designated area during a storm, but make it as inviting and comfortable as you can. Stock the emergency location with blankets, pillows, treats, and toys. Periodically, invite your pet to spend time in the emergency location so that he becomes comfortable with the environment and feels safe and welcome there.
If your pet is especially prone to anxiety during storms, talk to your veterinarian about potential solutions. Prescription medication or herbal remedies may be recommended to ease your pet’s worries during thunder and lightning. Anti-anxiety medication can be taken orally and mixed with food. And finally, make sure that your pet has a microchip in the unlikely event that he escapes during the chaos of a storm.
During a Lightning Storm
Make sure to bring all pets indoors and into a safe place, even dogs that spend most of their time out in the yard. Leave the dog house behind and bring your pet into the safety and security of your home when it begins to lightning. Bring your pet into the safe location that you have been training him to feel comfortable in and reward him with treats and toys for cooperating. Make sure that all doors and pet doors low to the ground are securely shut so that your pet can’t escape to the outdoors during a lightning storm.
If your pet is afraid of storms, use a ThunderShirt or swaddle him/her in a blanket. Comfortable, close-fitting garments can create a calming effect and reduce anxiety for many pets. Gentle grooming and soft music can also calm pets during storms, and many pets feel more comfortable in a dark interior room away from windows.
These are some other helpful tips for distracting your pet during a storm:
- Close all the curtains and blinds
- Set up a plastic crate for the pet to settle in
- Stay by your pet’s side
- Keep pets away from exits so they don’t run away if a door is suddenly opened
If you happen to get stuck outdoors and far from home while out with your pet, there are a few precautions you can take.
- Don’t panic because your pet may sense your anxiety and mirror it
- Seek shelter in an enclosed building nearby
- Walk or carry your pet away from hills, bridges, and large trees
- Keep your pet far away from water sources
- Keep your pet far away from metal fences and electrical wires