Schools get set for storms and lightning

GEORGE TOWN: The hot sunny days are coming to an end, replaced by thunderstorms and lightning as the inter-monsoon season arrives.

Schools here are taking no chances and are getting prepared for any eventualities during the new phase which begins today until mid-May.

A the Chung Ling Private High School, all outdoor physical activities will be cancelled during thunderstorms.

Safety first: Koh (left) showing the lightning rod on the roof of Chung Ling Private High School in George Town. — LIM BENG TATT/The StarSafety first: Koh (left) showing the lightning rod on the roof of Chung Ling Private High School in George Town. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

Vice-principal Koh Wan Leong said they had taken all precautionary measures to protect their students.

“We have a few 2m-high lightning poles at the old building. The new building, which was completed in 2014, has 10m lightning rods on the roof.

“This to protect the students and teachers, and to ensure that all electrical equipment are safe,” he said.

The school has 1,800 students.

A Fairview International School spokesperson also said none of the 200 students would be allowed outside during thunderstorms or heavy rain.

“We have also taken all precautionary measures as advised by the Fire Department, including evacuation steps,” the spokesperson said.

The school, too, has a lightning conductor.

A construction company in Sungai Ara said it had enforced strict rules that all work on high ground would be halted during thunderstorms.

“Tower cranes will not be in operation during downpours and the completed blocks have lightning conductors to protect the workers,” said project manager Kevin Phuah.

Lightning protection expert Hartono Zainal Abidin said public awareness about lightning safety had improved since the 1990s.

“The number of lightning fatalities have dropped from about 20 to 30 a year to less than 10 in recent years,” he said.

This awareness can be further enhanced by having annual lightning safety campaigns.

However, he said Malaysia being among the top lightning-prone countries was still lacking in its preparedness.

With the increasing population density and number of high-rise buildings as well as the climate change, more people and buildings are potentially at risk of being struck by lightning, he added.

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), the inter-monsoon season begins today and will continue until mid-May, marking the end of the north-east monsoon which began on Nov 7 last year.

During this phase, the country will receive weak winds from various directions which will form thunderstorms that bring heavy rain and strong winds.

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