On June 29, a devastating thunderstorm complex known as a derecho created a State of Emergency in the Washington DC area, producing widespread destruction and leaving more than one million people without power. Although derechos do not frequently move through our area, severe thunderstorms are common in the summer. Do you know how to protect your family, home and air conditioning unit? Here are some simple tips that can save lives and thousands of dollars.
1. Turn off your air conditioning at the thermostat during a thunderstorm.
Electrical control panels in air conditioning systems can be easily knocked out by power surges caused by lightning strikes. In other words, the lightning does not have to hit your unit directly to damage your unit.
This applies to other electrical equipment as well. Televisions and computers are at risk if running during an electrical storm.
2. Don’t take showers or baths during a thunderstorm.
Electricity can travel through metal pipes into your bathroom. It is also wise to avoid other sources of water with metal pipes, such as faucets and sinks, until the thunderstorm passes.
3. Are cell phones safe in electrical storms?
Electricity will travel through electrical cords and outlets, not radio waves. So, cordless phones and cell phones are safe inside, as long as they are not plugged in to an electrical outlet. There have been reports of lightning strikes to cell phone users and iPod users outdoors, not due to radio wave transmission, but because the users are holding a metal object, and that metal attracts and conducts electricity. It’s best to put away your cell phone and iPod if you are caught outside in an electrical storm.