Summer Safety: Lightning Facts and Safety Tips

Home Tool Kit

Each year, lightning causes dozens of deaths, thousands of fires and billions of dollars in property damage.1 Most lightning deaths and injuries in the United States occur during the summer months, when lightning strikes are more frequent and outdoor activities are at their peak.2 Lightning can occur year-round, however, so when enjoying outdoor activities it's important to pay attention to the weather and take appropriate actions when thunderstorms are approaching.

Lightning Safety Outdoors3

  • Be aware. Check the weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities. If the forecast calls for thunderstorms, postpone your trip or activity, or make sure adequate safe shelter is readily available.
  • Go indoors. Remember the phrase, "When thunder roars, go indoors." Find a safe, enclosed shelter when you hear thunder. Safe shelters can include homes, offices, shopping centers, and hard-top vehicles with the windows rolled up.
  • Crouch close to the ground. If you are caught in an open area, crouch down in a ball-like position (feet and knees together) with your head tucked and hands over your ears so that you are down low with minimal contact with the ground. Do NOT lie down. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly over 100 feet away. Crouching down is the best combination of being low and touching the ground as little as possible.


Lightning Safety Indoors4

While being inside your home is considered safe shelter in a storm, there are still some things that can pose a risk when lightning is present. Here are some activities and locations that you should consider avoiding during a storm:

  • Avoid water. Do NOT bathe, shower, wash dishes, or have any other contact with water during a thunderstorm because lightning can travel through plumbing.
  • Avoid electronic equipment. Do NOT use your computers, laptops, game systems, washers, dryers, stoves, or anything connected to an electrical outlet. Lightning can travel through electrical systems, radio and television reception systems.
  • Avoid windows, doors, porches, and concrete. Do NOT lie on concrete floors during a thunderstorm. Also, avoid leaning on concrete walls. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.


Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips5

If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may help reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Don't stay in open vehicles, structures or spaces
  • Never lie flat on the ground or take shelter under an isolated tree
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, etc.)


Plan Ahead to Stay Safe

You may not realize it but even a minor flood can cause serious property damage within a matter of minutes. While your chances of being struck by lightning are rare, it does happen. To help you stay safe, you need to take steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property against one of nature's most dangerous occurrences. Keeping these tips in mind may help to keep you safer during a lightning storm.

Sources:

1 Ronald L. Holle Annual rates of lightning fatalities by country.(PDF). International Lightning Detection Conference. 21–23 April 2008. Tucson, Arizona, USA. Retrieved on 2011-1108.

2 http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov

3 http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/lightning/safetytips.asp

4 http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/lightning/safetytips.asp

5 http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/tips.shtml