Sunday, June 5, 2016

Lightning protection in tents

A tent is expected to be a shelter, be sure it is.

When someone is using a tent, the first expectation is having a place where to shelter when the weather is not friendly enough to be outside the tent, enjoying nature, enjoying a music festival or doing any other outdoor activity, private or public, alone or sharing the activity with hundreds or thousands of people.

Once you have your tent set up , this is the first place you will think going to while looking for shelter when a storm starts.

If it is only a matter of rain, even heavy rain, the trick is to have a good tent which can stand the rain without letting the water getting into, an which is able to avoid any leakage so the water does not disturb you, while you are comfortably sheltered inside your tent.

But, what happens when it is not only about of water but also about of lightning?
Lightning struck
Lightning struck

Lightning strikes are more dangerous than an urban person is usually able to imagine. 

A 2003 report from the Royal Aeronautical Society from Arizona, US, point out that "a tent in a campground with trees nearby is specially unsafe from lightning" and reports 29 cases with 136 casualties and 11 deaths, of which more than a half of killed or injured people were staying inside or nearby the tent.
World lightning distribution
Lightning ditribution

The image shows distribution of lightning around the world in a map from UK Met Office.Statistics by show that more than 44 million of lightning strikes happened in US during 2015, more than 24 in Europe and more than 3 in Oceania.
Graphs: Lightning Strokes
Lightning strikes in the US-2015
Also, the US Army's Guide for Lightning Protective Measures for Personnel, Jan 2002 states that

"The most severe mishaps occur while troops were in the field, sleeping in tents. Lightning then strikes nearby, to a tree or even to the tent pole and the resulting current from the strike affects soldiers nearby."

Past Friday June 3rd, 71 people were injured by lightning at the Rock am Ring festival in the west German town of Mendig, where there were more than 90,000 music fans, many of them hosted under tents.
Rock am Ring festival, at Mending, Germany.

Rock am Ring festival, at Mending, Germany
Rock am Ring festival, at Mending, Germany (
So far, most of the existing tents in the market have metal or carbon fiber poles and this is also a major reason for the lightning danger, these materials are both electricity conductive materials so they act as a magnet for the lightning when it strikes nearby. And it is important to know that a person can be injured while staying nearby it not necessarily touching it.

To improve protection against lightning, tents should avoid having metal or carbon fiber poles. Glass fiber is a good option because is not a conductive material so it will never attracts lightning striking around, avoiding therefore the lightning striking the tent and keeping safer the people sheltered inside. Spite that, it is worthy to remember that only big shelter structures such as buildings or metal-topped vehicles with metal sides should be used as preferred shelter places.

The Us Army guide recommendations should be follow in order to assure protection under storm while lightnings striking.

- Move to a substantial building, a permanent structure, or a structure specifically designed as a lightning shelter. 
- Stay within metal vehicles. 
- Move to a low-lying area.
- Minimize contact with electrical equipment during lightning activity, 

And do not: 
- Remain in an open area.
- Move near tall objects such as trees or poles.
 -Remain in water.
 -Remain near metal fences, tracks, etc
 -Remain on hilltops or other high ground.
 -Remain in tents.

Ctents the only lightning protective tent
Ctents, tent with safer lightning-protective fiberglass structure

And if unable to take shelter, people should move to as low a spot as possible and crouch with feet closely together. Any objects that may produce a metallic upward projection, should be removed and placed horizontally on the ground nearby. 

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