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Lightning doesn't have to strike you to be dangerous
Be aware of summer storms' indirect risks for older adults

June 25, 2012

When you need to describe how unlikely something is, do you compare it to your risk of getting struck by lightning? In reality, lightning is the number three storm-related killer in the country. Last year, 26 people died from lightning strikes in the U.S., including one man in Ohio. For older adults, the negative impact of lightning can be less direct, but no less devastating.

Lightning and other storm-related weather, such as strong winds and heavy rains, can lead to power outages, which can have serious implications for older adults and others with chronic health conditions or mobility issues. Some things to consider include:

Lightning doesn't have to strike you to be dangerous
  • Much home medical equipment requires electricity to work. While some devices will have battery back-ups, these may fail if the outage lasts a long time.
  • Some medications used by older adults, such as insulin, require refrigeration and may lose their effectiveness or have dangerous side effects if kept in warm conditions for too long.
  • Without fans and air-conditioning, many older adults and people with breathing difficulties may be at increased risk for heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke.
  • Without adequate lighting, some older adults and people with mobility issues may be at increased risk of falls due to the inability to see the environment around them. Falls are a leading cause of disability for older adults.
  • If lightning strikes your home or property, it can cause expensive and possibly life-threatening damage, including electrical equipment failure and fire.
  • If telephone service is cut off because of a storm, some people may not have access to vital emergency services. Certain types of phone service available today (cable, VoIP) require electricity to work and may or may not have battery backups).

Our friends at the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness remind us that this week, June 24-30 is Lightning Safety Awareness Week, and encourage all Ohioans to practice lightning and severe storm safety and preparedness throughout the summer. We hope you will also use this time to consider how summer weather can negatively affect your well-being or that of an older loved one or neighbor.

The Ohio Legal Rights Service developed the Emergency Management Be Prepared Kit to help people with disabilities and their families create an emergency preparedness plan. The checklists it contains will help you plan for a variety of emergency situations, including severe summer weather.


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About Aging News and Perspective

Aging News and Perspective, published by the Ohio Department of Aging, is a blog-like publication that connects interested Ohioans to news and information about issues affecting older Ohioans and the people who care for and serve them. Topics include the latest resources and best pactices within the aging network, state and federal programs and benefits, pending and recent policy and legislation that may impact older Ohioans, the latest research in gerontology and aging issues and more.

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