How do you determine what level of risk is acceptable, and what can you do about it? Good question?

Think about lightning. Do you normally spend a lot of time thinking about the risk of being struck by lightning? Looking at the statistics, I was actually quite surprised at the number of people killed and injured by lightning over the years. But even if it was as unlikely as one in a million, most people wouldn’t think about it too much unless they hear and see a thunderstorm, in which case most folks go indoors or find a safe place to wait until the lightning stops.

Most people I know understand, from early childhood, that hearing thunder in the distance means that the picnic is over, it’s time to get out of the swimming pool, and Daddy will be home early from his golf game. I used to ride my horses long distances in the woods and canyons, and when thunder began I looked right away for a rock overhang on the trail or a sheltered spot off the skyline and away from trees.

The key to avoiding injury is to recognize the threat, have a good understanding of what is needed to avoid or deal with it, and the proper tools to work with.

The people who are injured or killed by lightning are, by and large, those who don’t know or ignore the warning signs, and/or don’t know what to do to increase their safety. Seems to me that not staying in a swimming pool or out in the open would be almost instinctive, but I guess there really are people that dumb – or arrogant. But hey, if they are willing to take the risk… it’s none of my business.

Even more rare are the incidents where people were injured by lightning after taking all reasonable precautions. I used to laugh at those who said you should stay off the telephone (land line) during a thunderstorm, but I’m not laughing anymore.

Myth: If you are in a house, you are 100% safe from lightning.
Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.

So, where am I going with all this? Glad you asked…

First, we can all agree that thunderstorms and lightning are seriously dangerous to some of us, no matter where we live. They can be dangerous to us even if we take all reasonable precautions to protect children and avoid injury.

Second, there will always be some people who ignore the warnings and neglect or refuse to take even minimal precautions. And sometimes, rarely but inevitably, some will be injured anyway.

That is simply a given of life! Life itself is risky. At any moment, a very large number of things MIGHT harm us one way or another. Just look around you and think about the things nearby or in your home that would injure or kill you if used carelessly or in the wrong way, left within reach of those not competent to handle them, or just because they exist!

I can name at least a dozen or more such things in my kitchen alone. Did you ever have a glass break in the dishwater? Did you think about that glass as a deadly danger before it shattered? Did you handle all the glasses more carefully ever after that? Most likely.

Did you know that one of the most potentially lethal things you can leave around for toddlers to find is water?

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4. The majority of drownings and near-drownings occur in residential swimming pools and in open water sites.  However, children can drown in as little as one inch of water.

So, what can we do about it? Pass laws against lightning or drinking glasses? Send out armed guards to round up people off the golf course or out of swimming pools? Confiscate all of the steak and kitchen knives in the country and melt them down to make ugly “art” for the UN building? Require a “license” and training courses for people who wish to mop their floors? Must we throw everyone in a cage if they show the slightest tendency to misuse a tool?

Or do we go on living our individual lives, taking stock of our surroundings and assessing the risks we face for ourselves? Wouldn’t it be better if we prepare, the best we can, to defend ourselves against every sort of danger?

Might not people learn better and faster how to provide for their own safety and comfort if they must face the consequences of their every action and choice? Treated as rational human beings, might not more folks tend to grow into that in every area of their lives?

Will that bring perfect safety to everyone? Will no more children die? Don’t we wish…

That is an impossible expectation, and the false promise of it can only result in ever more injury and death, regardless of the intentions or desires of those who insist that one more “law, ” one more restriction, device, “permit,” or list will finally give us that nirvana.

Life is dangerous. Risk is a part of living. Utopia is not an option.

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2 Responses to Risk

  1. Corpsman says:

    Great start! Best of luck with this. Risk assesment is an active and very personal process. Not something that should be delegated. Make an informed decision and accept the outcome. It’s part of being a free person. And part of being alive.
    When I was a kid, during thunderstorms, my father would have us wait for a bolt of lightning, then run from the back porch, to the pine tree in the back yard and try to make it before the thunder clap. Then do the same thing in reverse. Risky? Maybe. Sure was fun though.
    Make your choices, just don’t expect me to pay for your bad ones.


    • MamaLiberty says:

      Yes indeed! I remember my childhood very well, and life was a lot more fun when people could and did assess their own risk. The things we did then would give coronaries to most of the social do-gooders these days, but I don’t remember anyone ever dying from it then. We rode our bikes and horses without helmets, climbed up and jumped off the barn roof into the hay, swam in the stock pond, and ate like pigs… And I remember once sitting on the storm cellar steps watching a very small tornado tear a trench in the cornfield about 200 yards away! Our Aunt about had a fit when she saw we still had the door open, of course, but she didn’t fuss about it for long. It was time for us to go collect eggs and her to start the milking by then.

      What glorious memories.


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