December 12, 2017

View as List Lightning Strikes: How to Stay Safe

  • Lighting bolts in the sky

    People are seldom struck by lightning, but in recent years about 25 Americans have died annually from lightning strikes, and hundreds have been injured. The numbers are way down from a century ago largely due to safer buildings, more people living in cities, better education about lightning safety, and improved medical treatment. Injuries and deaths from lightning usually occur in summer, between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Here are nine tips to avoid lightning strikes.

     

  • 1

    In the car

    Rainy Day Traffic

    You are safe from a lightning strike in a car with a solid metal top and the windows and doors shut, if you are not touching a metal part of the car. Don’t stand right outside a car or lean on it in a storm.

  • 2

    If you're outdoors

    Lightning and dark clouds

    Out in the open in an electrical storm, you can gauge how far away the lightning is by counting the seconds between the flash and the thunderclap. Each five-second count equals one mile. If the time delay is less than 30 seconds, the next strike could be close. Seek shelter in a building or car, if possible.

  • 3

    Nowhere to hide?

    Close-up low section view of human feet

    If there’s no place to take shelter, try to find a gully or ditch, then squat on the balls of your feet. Lower your head, but don’t put your hands on the ground—minimize ground contact.

  • 4

    If you're at high altitude

    Thunder over the mountain

    A mountain top is dangerous in an electrical storm. You’re at higher risk of a lightning strike on an open ridge, cliff-top or summit. Stay below the timberline if it looks stormy.

  • 5

    If you're by a tree

    Tree silhouette thunderstrike

    Avoid lone trees. A single tree may attract a lightning strike. Move away and seek the lowest ground, or a group of trees where you will be safer. 

  • 6

    If you're in or on water

    Lightning in the Bay

    If you are fishing or swimming, leave the water immediately. Lightning strikes the highest point in the lake or pool, which may be your head or your fishing pole. If you’re in a boat, crouch low.

  • 7

    If you're on a bike, course, or court

    Rain fall golf courses.

    If you are cycling, golfing, or playing tennis, don’t touch metal objects. It’s best to get off your bike and seek shelter.

  • 8

    If you're indoors

    Lightnings in stormy Sky

    Most buildings are grounded. But during an electrical storm, it’s best to avoid standing near an open window, don’t use electrical appliances or a landline phone, and don’t bathe. Wiring and plumbing can conduct a lightning charge.

  • 9

    If someone is struck

    View of first aid

    Get medical help at once, even if the victim seems okay. If the person is not breathing, you can safely do rescue breathing or CPR. The victim carries no electrical charge after being struck.