Lightning Safety: 13 Things (2024) You Ought to Know

Did you see that flash of light in the distance?

Well, then, it’s time to practice lightning safety.

Getting caught in a lightning storm isn’t something to take lightly despite the low risk of being struck by lightning.

One wrong move and you could end up in the hospital or worse, and no one wants that to happen!

So, what should you do when a lightning storm rolls through?

We’re going to look at the top things you ought to know about indoor and outdoor lightning safety.

If you follow these tips, you’ll keep yourself and your loved ones out of harm’s way.

1. The Number One Rule of Lightning Safety: Seek Shelter During a Lightning Storm

Rule #1 of lightning safety: get to an enclosed shelter as quickly as possible.

Once you can hear the rumbling of thunder, you are in a vulnerable position and need to act.

The best types of shelter to defend against lightning storms are hard-top vehicles and fully enclosed buildings that are grounded with plumbing, wiring, and lightning rods.

However, even if you’re safely inside an enclosed structure, you should stay away from windows as lightning can penetrate through glass.

Here’s a list of shelters that will keep you safe during a lightning storm.

bulletHouses

bulletOffice buildings

bulletEnclosed shopping centers

bulletHard-top vehicles

Here’s a list of shelters that will not keep you safe during a lightning storm.

bulletTents

bulletConvertible vehicles

bulletGazebos

bulletDugouts

bulletPorches

bulletGolf carts

bulletJungle gyms

bulletSheds

2. Stay out of Open Areas

Open spaces are not the place you want to be during a lightning storm.

Places like fields, beaches, lakes, parks, and golf courses tend not to have tall objects around, which makes you the most likely target if lightning strikes in the area.

As you now know, getting to an enclosed structure is the best thing to do, but you might be in a situation where there aren’t any buildings to enter.

So, what should you do then?

Here’s what to do if you’re caught in an open space without any enclosed structures around.

bulletDo not lie flat on the ground.

bulletRemain standing, tuck yourself into a ball position and place your hands over your ears.

This will minimize the amount of contact you have with the ground and keep you as low as possible.

bulletStay away from cliffs or rocky overhangs.

Lightning could dislodge dangerous pieces of rock, causing them to crash down on top of you.

bulletAvoid isolated trees.

During a lightning storm, you might feel safer standing under a tree or next to a structure, but you would actually be putting yourself in further danger as lightning tends to strike the tallest objects in the area.

bulletStay off elevated terrains like mounds, hills, and mountains.

You want to be at as low of an elevation as possible.

3. stay away from objects that conduct electricity

A common myth about lightning is that it’s attracted to metal.

False!

You don’t need to worry about your phone or jewelry increasing your chances of being struck.

However, metal is a conductor of electricity, which means the energy of lightning can travel through it and injure anyone touching the material.

Additionally, when lightning moves through metal objects, it generates an extreme amount of heat, which could result in serious fires (indoors and outdoors).

So, if you find yourself in a storm, practice lightning safety and get away from things like metal structures, construction equipment, fences, and windmills.

You should stay a safe distance away from any brush surrounding metal objects that could catch on fire.

Lastly, when you’re inside a car (a safe place to be), avoid touching any of the vehicle’s metal materials.

4. Immediately Exit Bodies of Water

Water, like metal, is a conductor of electricity, which means it is not safe to swim during a lightning storm.

When lightning strikes a body of water, like ponds, lakes and other bodies of water, the electrical current can be lethal around 20 feet from the impact point, depending on its intensity.

As soon as you hear thunder or see flashes of light, you should immediately get out of the water and quickly get to shelter.

You need to be mindful that during the moments of exiting the water, you’ll likely be the tallest object in the area, so don’t waste any time!

Additionally, being on an open boat, kayak, or jet ski during a lightning storm is not a safe place to be.

Get to shore as soon as you can.

If you’re on an enclosed boat and far away from shore, get to the lowest part of the vessel and avoid touching any metal materials.

5. Spread Out from Other People

Large groups of people do not attract lightning strikes; however, spreading out will reduce the number of injuries if the area is struck.

Research has found instances of lightning strikes traveling up to 60 feet from the impact point.

These electrical currents can travel through the ground, go up your leg, and potentially cause cardiac and respiratory arrest.

6. Unplug and Avoid Electronics Connected to Outlets

Just because you’re inside a house doesn’t mean you’re entirely safe.

Avoid using any electrical appliances that are connected to the wall, including phones, lamps, stoves, washers, dryers, televisions, computers, etc.

If lightning strikes your buildings or even a local power source, it can cause surges to move through the electrical system and potentially harm you.

These electrical surges could also do damage to the appliances that are plugged in, so if you know a storm is coming, unplug all the devices in the house.

This may seem a bit over the top, but it could save you a lot of money in damages.

For those who live in an area that frequently experiences lightning, consider using surge protectors to keep your appliances safe and reduce the chance of electrical fires.

Any electronics that don’t need to be plugged in, like cell phones, are safe to use.

7. Don’t Use Indoor Plumbing

Lightning has one more sneaky way of getting indoors and threatening your safety: plumbing.

When lightning strikes your home (or nearby), that spark of electricity can travel through the water pipes, making your indoor water unsafe to use.

You should avoid bathing, showering, and washing dishes or your hands during a lightning storm.

Metal plumbing is considered the most dangerous during a lightning storm, but even if you have plastic pipes, don’t come into contact with any running water; the electrical current can still make its way into your home.

Keep in mind that lightning can damage plumbing, and you may need to have certain pipes replaced if you suspect your building was struck.

So, when a thunderstorm rolls in, get out of the shower, turn off all the water in the house, and wait for the danger to pass.

8. Avoid Lying or Leaning on Concrete Floors and Walls

Being inside an enclosed concrete structure is much safer than being fully exposed outside, but you still need to be cautious.

Concrete structures often have metal bars and wires embedded in them, which the electricity from lightning can travel through, resulting in electrocution and indoor fires.

Make sure you don’t lie on the concrete floor or lean against any concrete walls.

There’s no need to crouch down into a ball, as you should if you’re outside, but you’ll want to minimize your contact with any concrete surfaces.

Structures that have been properly grounded should be completely safe for anyone inside.

But, if you’re unfamiliar with the building, be cautious and remember our lightning safety tips.

9. If Your House Is Struck, Lightning Safety Requires That You Check for Fires

In the unfortunate event of your house being struck by lightning, you need to check for fires.

Lightning bolts are extremely hot, reaching temperatures of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

To put that number in perspective, the surface of the sun has temperatures of just 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit!

So, yes, lightning is pretty hot, to say the least.

Lighting strikes can start fires in two ways: making direct contact with flammable materials, such as roofing, or causing electrical surges.

Both scenarios are equally dangerous, and you should do a thorough investigation of your house–attics are common spots for fires to occur.

If you see or smell even the faintest amount of smoke, immediately call 911 and wait outside for help (stand somewhere safe from further lightning strikes).

10. The 30/30 Rule of Lightning Safety

As soon as you detect that lightning is in the area, you should take precautions.

But you can also use the 30/30 rule to help you determine just how dangerous your location is.

The 30/30 Rule Basics:

bullet30 Seconds: When you hear thunder, count the seconds until you see a flash of lightning.

If you see lightning within 30 seconds of hearing thunder, you are not at a safe lightning distance and need to find shelter quickly.

bullet30 Minutes: While you’re safely stowed away from the storm, you need to stay put until 30 minutes have passed since the last sound of thunder.

Storms can be unpredictable even when they seemingly have moved on.

Just as soon as you think it’s over, the storm can make a quick turn and put you in a vulnerable position again.

11. You Can Touch Someone Who’s Been Struck Without Worrying About Lightning Safety

In the case of someone being struck, medical attention may be needed immediately.

A common myth is that touching a person who has been hit by lightning could inadvertently electrocute you.

That is not true.

Lightning victims are not electrically charged, as the current passes through them within seconds.

The most common and dangerous results of being struck by lightning are cardiac and respiratory arrest.

In that scenario, you would need to make direct contact with the victim and perform CPR or use an automated external defibrillator.

Don’t let the irrational fear of being electrocuted stop you from acting quickly.

The victim’s life may depend on your swiftness!

And, of course, call 911 before starting CPR or have someone else make the call while you begin administering first aid.

12. Make a Lightning Safety Plan

If you’re planning an outdoor activity or working outside, and you know there’s a chance of a storm, make a lightning safety plan!

Here’s a list of suggested safety precautions.

bulletMake a mental note of safe shelters to seek refuge in.

bulletAlways be within a short distance of your car.

bulletDon’t risk getting stuck in a place where you’re the tallest object.

bulletDon’t swim far from shore.

The best safety plan is to cancel any outdoor activities and to stop working when a thunderstorm is looming.

Your life is not worth risking, but if you have to be outside, follow the 30/30 rule to stay safe.

13. Thunder Always Means Lightning

You can’t have thunder without lightning, and vice versa, because thunder is the sound caused by lightning strikes.

But what exactly is lightning?

Lightning occurs when the bottom of a cloud becomes negatively charged due to rain and ice particles colliding.

In turn, the Earth becomes positively charged.

When the imbalance of positive and negative charges grows too much, there is an electric discharge from the cloud, which is what we refer to as lightning.

Although light travels faster than sound–much faster–the flash of lightning is usually hidden behind buildings, mountains, and trees.

So, thunder is usually our first indication that lightning has struck nearby and that it’s time to get to a safe location.

Final Thoughts

Who would have guessed that there were so many lightning safety tips, right?

Well, now you’ll know exactly what to do when you see dark clouds rolling in and hear the loud clap of thunder.

Just because you haven’t met anyone who’s been struck by lightning doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you!

Always do the smart thing and wait for the storm to pass before continuing with your normal day-to-day activities.

And remember, even when you’re inside, you are vulnerable to the dangers of lightning.

Be safe and enjoy the natural light show!

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

Erika

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