Country fairs, traveling circuses, local festivals, carnivals and concerts are all part of summertime fun. But when the weather turns nasty quickly, fun time can turn dangerous in a flash. That’s what happened in a small New England town after a circus tent collapsed killing two people and injuring others during a powerful storm. Here are 8 safety tips to help you avoid a life-threatening extreme weather situation.
Learn Safety Tips Before You Need them
Despite weather forecasts alerting people in the area of Lancaster, New Hampshire, to an oncoming thunderstorm, two people were killed and more than 20 were injured after a circus tent collapsed during the storm. The tragedy came just a day after a man died and more than a dozen were injured following a storm at the Wood Dale festival in suburban Chicago. There too, a rapid, but severe storm collapsed a tent.
Storms can sneak up on you faster than you think. Wind can quickly uproot tents and umbrellas and send them flying. Hail can damage equipment and send things falling. And thunderstorms (often accompanied by wind, rain, lightning and sometimes hail) can cause flash flooding, damage and electrical problems that can become immediate hazards to you. Depending on where the festivals and fun are taking place, and depending on who’s in charge, there may or may not have been proper construction, proper installation or proper inspections done on the site and its equipment.
Eight Safety Tips
- Check the forecast! Before heading out to the fair/carnival/festival/concert or activity that may leave you exposed—check the weather forecast! Maybe do something different if thunderstorms are predicted in the area (even if they’re only supposed to be short-lived).
- Sign up for weather alerts on your mobile device. Decided to go anyway? Weather alerts on your smart device will let you know what’s up. Weather can change quickly. This means you’ll still have some advanced warning. If you get that warning—heed it and leave.
- Remember the 30/30 rule: If you see lightning and can’t count to 30 before hearing thunder, get to shelter. Then stay in the shelter for 30 minutes after hearing the last rumble of thunder. (Source: FEMA)
- Seek shelter inside the largest building around you.
- No building? Get into a car or other type of motor vehicle. Cars are generally safer than standing outside because the metal frame helps conduct the electricity away from you and into the ground. You should sit in your seat and avoid touching any metal part of the car. (Source: NOAA) Cars also can help protect you from hail or other falling objects.
- Stay away from tall, isolated trees. If you’re exposed to the elements with no good place to shelter, get to a lower point and make yourself as small as possible, by crouching down with your feet together, tucking in your head in between your knees and covering your ears. (Crouching versus lying down means less contact with the ground as lightning targets an object providing the least resistant path to the ground.) (Source: NOAA)
- If you’re in a group, spread out to avoid the current traveling between group members. (Source: National Weather Service)
- Don’t touch metal. If you are absolutely stuck in,under or near a tent or stage during a storm, don’t touch the poles or wires as they may act as lightning rods! (Again, see some of the above tips and get to a better shelter ASAP!)