ST LOUIS – This week marks National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, a dedicated week that began in 2001 in an effort to call attention to lightning being an underrated killer.

It’s important to understand that there’s no safe place from a thunderstorm if you’re outside. If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance of the storm.

With the timeliness of the awareness week along with recent storms, it’s important to understand the dangers and when to take appropriate action with a thunderstorm in the area.

“When we talk about a thunderstorm being in the area, we’re talking about a thunderstorm being within 10 miles because lightning can strike outward from the storm 10 miles. If you can hear thunder, you’re likely within striking distance from the storm because you can only hear thunder from about 10 miles away,” John Jensenius, lightning safety specialist with the National Lightning Safety Council, said.

Lightning falls among the top five weather-related killers in the United States.

“It’s interesting because long ago, lightning used to be the number two killer, but it’s gradually slid down the list because of the efforts to try and educate people and make them more aware of the dangers,” Jensenius said.

In a 30-year average, lightning is listed as the 5th weather-related killer.

Lightning is fast and it hits quick—about as fast as 200,000 mph when it drops from the cloud. When the strike reaches the ground, the channel discharges upwards about 200 million mph.

“Almost 80% of the fatalities we see are male and we think there are a number of reasons for that. First of all, men are involved in many activities that put them at risk more so than women. Another part of that is they may not react as quickly to the lightning threat. Men tend to be involved in jobs where they are outside working so there are a number of factors there, but it’s always important if you’re outside recreating or you’re at work to pay attention to the sky and if you hear thunder, get inside right away,” Jensenius said.