Lightning Safety Tips

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!  

If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.  Lightning can strike 10 to 15 miles away from the rain portion of the storm.  In general, lightning will travel the easiest route from the cloud to ground which means that it often strikes the tallest object.  Lightning can strike twice!  

There are 5 ways lightning can strike a person:

  1. Directly - person directly hit by lightning
  2. Side Flash  - person is alternate/parallel current path
  3. Conducted - current diverted from poorly grounded wiring
  4. Step Voltage - Radiates from ground; many livestock deaths result from step voltage each year
  5. Secondary Effects - person affected by fires, fallen trees, crushed cars as a result of lightning strikes
Lightning Safety

Tips for Lightning Safety:

  • Prepare a Lightning Safety Plan - identify a place for shelter and how much time it will take to get there. Make sure your plan allows enough time to reach safety.
  • Monitor the Weather - Look for signs of a developing thunderstorm such as darkening skies, flashes of lightning, or increasing wind.
  • Postpone Activities -  Before going outdoors, check the forecast for thunderstorms. Consider postponing activities to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
  • Find Shelter - If you hear thunder, even a distant rumble, immediately move to a safe place. Fully enclosed buildings with wiring and plumbing provide the best protection.  Sheds, picnic shelters, tents, under bleachers, or covered porches do not protect you from lightning.  If a sturdy building is not nearby, get into a hard-topped metal vehicle and close all the windows.   Stay   inside until 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.
  • Unplug - Unplug sensitive electronics
  • No Metal - Get rid of metal objects on your body such as coins, money clips, hair pins, jewelry, etc.  No holding onto metal objects such as fishing poles, golf clubs, ski poles, tennis rackets, and tools
  • No Open Transportation - No boats, bicycles, and motorcycles.  Avoid anything where metal comes into direct contact with your body
  • No Tall Objects -  Move away from all tall objects like poles or trees.  Do not be the tallest object standing in a field or on a hill.  
  • No Electrical or Water - Keep away from electrical equipment (including televisions), wiring, and water pipes.
  • No Corded Phones - If you hear thunder, don’t use a corded phone.  Cordless phones, cell phones and other wireless handheld devices are safe to use.
  • No Open Areas - Avoid open fields, beaches, and hilltops.  
  • No Water - Avoid boats, swimming, open water 
  • Wooded Areas - If you are in a wooded area, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.   If you are in a group of people, spread out keeping several yards apart from each other. 
  • Hair Standing on End - If you feel your hair stand on end, you are in immediate danger of being struck. Unless you can instantly jump inside a shelter, drop to a crouching position, bending forward and keeping your feet close together with your hands on your knees. The object is to be as low to the ground as possible, but with as little of your body surface touching the ground.

If you ARE struck by lightning, know that persons struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely. Lightning often has a paralyzing effect that is temporary. Even though a person appears dead, he or she may be resuscitated. If a victim is not breathing, call EMS at 9-1-1 and immediately start mouth to mouth resuscitation every 5 seconds for adults and children. If a person is not breathing AND there is no pulse, CPR must be administered.  

For more information on lightning safety, contact our Certified Industrial Hygienist & Certified Safety Professional: 

Steve Kirschner