When Lightning Strikes: Part I

July 18, 2011

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), approximately 400 people are injured and about 60 people are killed each year by lightning in the United States. In comparison, in an average year, tornadoes kill the same amount of people, and hurricanes kill even less than that! While some may consider information about lightning mostly common knowledge, there is also a large amount of misinformation and myths about lightning. With that in mind, it's important to stay properly informed about lightning, so read on in this two part series about protecting yourself and your home in an instance of a lightning strike.

When thunder roars, go indoors! If you hear thunder, you are at risk of being struck by lightning, regardless of what the weather looks like. Drop what you are doing and immediately seek shelter in a fully enclosed building or a hard-top vehicle. Don't go into a garage or covered patio, as you are still at risk of being struck.

When inside:

  • Stay way from windows and doors.
  • Do not use corded phones, computers or other electronics that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid baths, sinks, and other plumbing.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.

Remember that no place is safe outside from lightning; however, if you are caught in a storm outside and have no way of getting to adequate shelter, here are some tips for what to do:

  • Never lie completely flat on the ground, as this increases your risk of being affected by a deadly ground current.
  • Never use a tree for shelter; using a tree as shelter is the second most common way that people are struck by lightning.
  • Immediately move away from high grounds, such as hills or mountains.
  • Never use a cliff face as shelter.
  • Immediately get out of and away from any body of water.
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity, such as fences.
  • If a building or all-metal vehicle is nearby, move to it.

If someone is struck by lightning, begin CPR. There is a common myth that people struck by lightning carry an electric charge and that touching them will result in you being electrocuted. This is FALSE! Cardiac arrest is the immediate cause of death in lightning strike victims, so using CPR on a lightning strike victim may save his/her life. Call 911 for help.
For additional information, stay tuned for a follow-up blog post next week. In addition, you can find some more information from NOAA, such as myths about lightning.