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What You Need to Know about Lightning Safety

when thunder roars go indoors

In the US alone, lightning caused an average of 38 deaths and 238 injuries per year. The most dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm is outdoors. According to the National Climatic Data Center, 46% of all US lightning related casualties were outdoors or in open areas and 23% were from people taking shelter from under trees.

Plan ahead: When you first see threatening clouds, see lightning or hear thunder you should suspend outdoor activities IMMEDIATELY.

Remember, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!” The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside a substantial building:

  • Staying away from windows
  • Staying off corded electronics
  • Not using the sink, tub, shower, etc.

You should also wait 30 minutes from the last clap of thunder to return to outdoor activities. If no substantial building is available the next safest place is in a vehicle with metal sides and roof with all windows rolled up.

If you are outdoors when a thunderstorm approaches and there is no substantial building or vehicle to take shelter in:

  • Avoid high ground
  • Avoid water
  • Avoid open spaces
  • Avoid all metal objects (i.e., electric wires, fences, machinery, motors, power tools, etc.)
  • Crouch down by putting your feet together and place hands over your ears to minimize hearing damage from the thunder.
  • Try to keep at least 15 feet between you and other people

The most important thing to remember is that if a person is struck or injured by lightning that they DO NOT carry and electrical charge and should receive first aid/CPR as soon as possible. If someone is injured by lightning, call or send someone to call 911 immediately.

If you are riding a bike or motorcycle:

  • Find a substantial building when you see threatening skies and get inside. Wait 30 minutes until after the last clap of thunder to return riding.
  • Turn around and ride away from the storm.
  • NEVER ride into a lightning storm! If you cannot get to a safe building:
  • Wait out the storm below an overpass and DO NOT touch steel girders. Remain on dry surfaces.
  • If high voltage electrical tension wires cross the road you may want to seek shelter directly infer these wires. DO NOT however, stand close to metal towers that hold up those wires – stay at least 50 feet away from metal towers.
  • If you are caught in the open and lightning is occurring within 5 miles, STOP riding, get off your bike, be at least 50 feet away from your bike, find a ditch or other low spot and crouch down.

There are many resources out there for lightning safety and lightning awareness. Feel free to visit some of these links to pages and publications to learn more and see some lightning related statistics:

Lightning Fires and Lightning Strikes
Stuck by Lightning - Statistics
Lightning Protection Institute
Lightning Safety Tips
Lightning Safety Alliance