Claim: Viral WhatsApp message on several safety tips accredited to the National Orientation Agency (NOA).
Verdict: MISLEADING. This viral message on safety tips combines false and misleading claims that did not originate from the NOA.
The rainy season in Nigeria is usually between April and October, although there is typically light rainfall in some regions all year round.
Recently, a viral WhatsApp message credited to the National Orientation Agency (NOA) shared a few safety tips for the season.
According to the message shared on a church platform, some objects and devices, like mobile phones, television, etc., should not be used during heavy rainfall.
The virality of the claim and several requests by our community members for verification prompted us to look into the different assertions.
Seeing the message was accredited to the NOA, we reached out to David Akoji, the Director of the Agency, who debunked the message. The Agency noted that this was recurring and did not originate from them.
“It makes the rounds every rainy season. It is certainly not from us. This is not our style; we have put out several rebuttals in the past when this was circulated,” their reply reads.
The safety tips touched on issues related to heavy downpours/rainfalls, so we highlighted each assertion and checked its veracity.
Claim 1: You can’t use a mobile phone during heavy downpours.
A keyword search on this led to a fact-check in 2022 by India Today, noting cell phones do not attract lightning and are safe for use during rainfall.
The United States (US) National Weather Service lightning safety guide noted that wireless phones are safe during lightning. This guide only warns against the use of corded telephones and computers.
“Lightning can travel great distances through power lines, especially in rural areas. Do not use electrical appliances, ESPECIALLY corded telephones, unless it is an emergency (cordless and cell phones are safe to use). Computers are also dangerous, usually connected to phones and electrical cords. Do not take a shower or bath or use a hot tub.”
A study published on ResearchGate also agrees with the weather service.
Claim 2: You must switch off your Television (TV) set during heavy downpours.
Verdict: MOSTLY TRUE
A report by The Cable notes that adverse weather conditions or heavy downpours are known to affect the quality of the satellite TV signal reception. This is called “rain fade.”
The US Department of Homeland Security warns against using electronic devices connected to an electric outlet during thunderstorms and lightning.
The department recommends using surge protectors, lightning rods or a lightning protection system to protect your home, appliances and electronic devices.
Claim 3: Stay away from mirrors and glass objects during heavy downpours.
Verdict: INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE
Our research did not lead to any report or document highlighting glass objects or mirrors as dangerous items during heavy downpours.
Claim 4: Avoid taking baths when it is raining.
The National Weather Service only warns against bathing when there is lightning, not rainfall.
This viral message on safety tips combines false and misleading claims that did not originate from the NOA.