VIJAYAWADA: Have you ever wondered how lightning strikes are impacting the lives of people in the State? That they have turned into one of the major causes of death is quite a revelation. From March 16 to May 13 this year, 58 people have lost their lives while over 1.7 lakh lightning strikes occurred in the State during the period.Though the AP State Disaster Management Authority (APSDMA) has developed an app called Vajrapaat to send out bilingual SMS alerts to people on lightning strikes for only BSNL subscribers, it does not seem to have impacted the rural people much due to illiteracy.
Speaking to Express, Ramana Murthy, senior scientist at APSDPS said, “The mass messaging alert system from APSDMA for lightning strikes is a good initiative as lakhs of people are benefiting from it. The alerts come to the officials 30-40 minutes early and they are immediately forwarded to the people of the regions that are likely to be affected. However, the people residing in open spaces in remote areas are unable to receive them on time.”
As far as the Vajrapaat is considered, only about 10,000 people have downloaded the app. The app is being used mostly by tahsildars and village heads for passing on the information. The alert indicates the possibility of lightning strikes in a radius of 30 km radius. S Kishan, Incharge of State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC), said, “Vajrapaat was designed based on the individual user interface. Any user can know about the lightning strike if it happens in a radius of 30 km in a particular region.
There are three radius circles like 30 km, 15 km and 8 km. If the strike is in a radius of 30 km, the users will be notified with an alert message like find shelter. If it is in 15 km radius, the message asks people to seek shelter and if it is in 8 km radius it asks them to stay put in the shelter. Similarly, we are sending out mass messages through Kaizala app, BSNL service provider apart from alerting people through the media and village heads.”
According to an official of APSDMA, 11 sensors have been placed at Anantapur, Kuppam, Visakhapatnam and other parts of the State to test the lightning alert system. Each sensor tower has a range of 200 km, installed in a zigzag pattern. The partnering organisation, ISRO has also successfully roped in a US-based company - Earth Networks - to analyze electromagnetic waves, to spot the exact location of lightning.
Speaking to Express, Incharge Director of APSDMA, M Jagannadham said, “We are actually sending the warnings and localising the information through BSNL towers, tahsildars and the media. We are also releasing awareness bulletins apart from appealing to people not to take shelter under trees and in open areas. The Vajrapaat app is working but more analytics have to be done. Following instructions from Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, we are working on ways to weaken the lightning system before the strikes. We are developing a siren and IVRS systems to alert people about natural disasters.”
The CM, in a tele-conference on Sunday, lamented the lightning deaths despite putting in place an advanced alert system. He instructed the APSDMA officials to quickly analyse the data and take steps to prevent human loss in lightning strikes. He also asked them to take measures to create public awareness in this regard.
How you can save your life
When there is a threat of thunderstorm, get inside a home or a large building
Inside a home, avoid using the telephone
Do not stand under a tall and an isolated tree
Avoid standing on a hilltop, in an open field, on the beach, or fishing from a small boat and stay away from open waters away from tractors and other metal farm equipment
Stay away from wire fences, clothelines, metal pipes, rails and other metallic paths
Avoid standing in small isolated sheds