Summer is the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena - lightening.
In the United States, an average of 67 people are killed each year by lightening. Many more are struck but do survive. However, they often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms, including memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, numbness, dizziness, stiffness in joints, irritability, fatigue weakness, muscle spasms, depression, and an inability to sit for long. Lightening is a serious danger.
Through this site we hope you'll learn more about lightening risks and how to protect yourself and family.
Safe Shelters & Indoor Safety
What is the difference between a safe shelter and a unsafe shelter?
Safe Shelter : A house or other substantial building offers the best protection from lightening. In assessing the safety provided by a particular structure, it is more important to consider what happens if the structure gets struck by lightning, rather than whether the structure will be hit by lightening. For a shelter to provide protection from lightening, it must contain a mechanism for conducting the electrical current from the point of contact to the ground. These mechanisms may be on the outside of the structure, may be contained within the walls of the structure, or may be a combination of the two. On the outside, lightening can travel along the outer shell of the building or may follow metal gutters and downspouts to the ground. Inside a structure, lighting can follow conductors such as the electrical wiring, plumbing, and telephone lines to the ground.
Unsafe Shelter : Unless specifically designed to be lightening safe, small structures do little, if anything, to protect occupants from lightening. Many small open shelters on athletic fields, golf courses, parks, roadside picnic areas, schoolyards and elsewhere are designed to protect people from rain and sun, but not lightening. A shelter that does not contain plumbing or wiring throughout, or some other mechanism for grounding from the roof to ground is not safe. Small wooden, vinyl, of metal sheds offer little or no protection from lightening and should be avoided during thunderstorms.
Staying safe while inside a house and/or building : There are 3 main ways lightening enters homes and buildings :
A direct strike
Through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure
Through the ground
Regardless of the method of entrance, once in a structure, the lightening can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio/television reception systems. Lightening can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooding.
Phone use is the leading cause of indoor lightening injuries in the United States. Lightening can travel long distances in both phone and electrical wires, particularly in rural areas. Stay away from windows and doors as these can provide the path for a direct strike to enter a home. Do not lie on the concrete floor of a garage as it likely contains a wire mesh. In general, basements are a safe place to go during thunderstorms. However, there are some things to keep in mind. Avoid washers and dryers since they not only have contacts with the plumbing and electrical systems, but also contain an electrical path to the outside through the dryer vent.
Lightening Safety Tips for Inside the Home :
Avoid contact with corded phones
Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.
Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry.
Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
Do not lie on concrete floors and so not lean against concrete walls.
Lightening Safety Outdoors
Each year, about 400 individuals in the United States are stuck by lightening while working outside, at sports events, on the beach, mountain climbing, mowing the lawn or during other outdoor activities. About 67 people are killed and several hundred more are left to cope with permanent disabilities.
All thunderstorms produce lightening and are dangerous
Lightening often strikes as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall
You are in danger from lightening if you can hear thunder
Lightening injuries can lead to permanent disabilities or death
Look for dark cloud bases and increasing wind
Blue skies and lightening : Lightening can travel sideways for up to 10 miles. Even when the sky looks blue and clear, be cautious. If you hear thunder, take cover. At least 10% of lightening occurs without visible clouds overhead in the sky.
Outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a lightening storm. When lightening is seen or thunder is heard, or when dark clouds are observed, quickly move indoors or into a hard-topped vehicle and remain there until well after the lightening storm ends.
Safety Rules :
Postpone activities promptly. Don't wait for rain. Many people take shelter from the rain, but most people struck by lightening are not in the rain. Go quickly inside a completely enclose building is convenient, get inside a hard-topped all metal vehicle. A cave is a good option outside but move as far as possible from the cave entrance.
Be the lowest point. Lightening hits the tallest object. In the mountains if you are above treeline, you ARE the highest object around. Quickly get below treeline and get into a grove of small trees. Don't be the second tallest object during a lightening storm. Crouch down if you are in an exposed area.
Stay away from trees, if you can't get to a shelter. If there is no shelter, crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from a tree as it is tall.
Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of lightening, or increasing wind, which may be signs of an approaching thunderstorm.
Listen for the sound of thunder. If you can hear thunder, go to a safe shelter immediately.
If you see or hear a thunderstorm coming or your hair stands on end, immediately suspend your game or practice and instruct everyone to go inside a sturdy building or car. Sturdy buildings are the safest place to be. Avoid sheds, picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, and bleachers. If no sturdy building is nearby, a hard-top vehicle with windows closed will offer some protection. The steel frame of the vehicle provides some protection if you are not touching metal.
Avoid leaning against vehicles. Get off bicycles and motorcycles.
Get out of water. It's a great conductor of electricity. Stay off the beach and out of small boats or canoes. If caught in a boat, crouch down in the center of the boat away from metal hardware. Swimming, wading, snorkeling and scuba diving are NOT safe. Lightening can strike the water and travel some distance beneath and away from its point of contact. Don't stand in puddles of water, even if wearing rubber boots.
Avoid metal. Drop metal backpacks, stay away from clothes lines, fences, exposed sheds and electrically conductive elevated objects. Don't hold on to metal items such as golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets or tools. Large metal objects can conduct lightening. Small metal objects can cause burns.
Move away from a group of people. Stay several yards away from other people. Don't share a bleacher bench or huddle in a group.
Listen to NOAA Weather Radio. Coaches and other leaders should listen for a tone-alert feature during practice sessions and games.
The 30-30 Rule : Use the 30-30 rule where visibility is good and there is nothing obstructing your view of the thunderstorm. When you see lightening, count the time until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is within 6 miles of you and is dangerous. Seek shelter immediately. The threat of lightening continues for much longer period than most people realize. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before leaving shelter. Don't be fooled by sunshine or blue sky!!
Lightening Safety on the Water
Before going boating, fishing, diving or enjoying other water sports or going out for business, check the forecast. If severe weather is predicted, stay home. If you must go out, take a radio and monitor forecasts. Return to shore as soon as possible if a storm is predicted. If you caught out in a storm, here's what do to:
Get a lightening protection system for your boat or ship.
Stay in the center of the cabin if the boat is so designed. If no enclosure is available, stay low. Don't be a "stand-up human" lightening mast.
Keep arms and legs in the boat. Do not dangle them in the water.
Stop fishing, water skiing, swimming or other water activities when there is lightening or even when weather conditions look threatening. The first lightening strike can be a mile or more in front of an approaching thunderstorm cloud.
Disconnect and do not use or touch the major electronic equipment, including the radio, throughout the duration of the storm.
Lower, remove or tie down the radio antenna and other protruding devices if they are not part of the lightening protection system.
To the degree possible, avoid making contact with any portion of the boat connected to the lightening protection system. Never be in contact with two components connected to the system at the same time. Example: the gear levers and spotlight handle are both connected to the system. Should you have a hand on both when lightening strikes, the possibility of electrical current passing through your body from hand to hand is great. The path of the electrical current would be directly through your heart -- a very deadly path.
If a boat has been, or is suspected of having been, struck by lightening, check out the electrical system and the compasses to insure that no damage has occurred.
What to do if someone is struck by lightening:
Call for help : Call 9-1-1. Get medical attention as quickly as possible.
Give first aid : If the victim has stopped breathing, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, address any other injuries. Many individuals struck by lightening or exposed to excessive electrical current can be saved with prompt and proper artificial respiration and/or CPR. There is no danger in touching persons after they have been struck by lightening.
Check for burns in two places (the entry burn and exit burn). The injured person has received an electric shock and may be burned. Being struck by lightening can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing or eyesight. People struck by lightening carry no electrical charge that can shock other people. You can examine them without risk.