Lightning is an underrated danger that many people don’t take seriously and don’t take the precautions they should. In 2001, Lightning Safety Awareness week was started to educate people about lightning danger and how to stay safe.
Since the awareness week started, deaths per year in the United States from lightning decreased from about 50 people to about 30 people. However, hundreds of people become severely injured from lighting. Even though the odds of being struck aren’t extremely likely, it’s important to stay safe and informed because lightning is unpredictable.
This year’s awareness week is June 18-24, so we’ve created this guide about how to stay safe during a thunderstorm.
Lightning strikes in the United States about 25 million times per year. Although most lightning occurs during the summertime, you can be struck any time of the year. Also, what many people don’t realize is that lightning strikes as far as 25 miles away from the parent storm. And most strikes occur before or after the most intense part of the storm.
Where to Go During a Thunderstorm
Don’t wait until you see lightning to seek shelter. The saying goes “when thunder roars, go indoors.” If you can hear thunder, you’re within striking distance of the storm.
An enclosed and sturdy structure, such as a house, school, or office building, is the best place for seeking shelter. The next best alternative is an enclosed vehicle, such as a car, van or bus. If you’re in a vehicle, roll up the windows and don’t touch metal surfaces, the ignition, or plugged-in mobile devices.
Additionally, avoid the following things during a storm:
- Concrete surfaces like your basement or garage (lightning can travel through wiring in concrete walls and floors).
- Corded phones and electrical equipment.
- Plumbing (metal plumbing and water are conductors of electricity).
- Water (avoid washing hands, doing laundry, taking a shower/bath, doing dishes, etc.).
- Windows and doors.
Where NOT to Go During a Thunderstorm
The following places are NOT safe during a thunderstorm:
- Buildings with exposed sides (park shelter, beach shack, baseball dugout, porches, etc.).
- Metal sheds.
- Convertible vehicles (even if the roof is up, you’re still not safe).
- Vehicles with exposed sides (golf carts, tractors, construction equipment, etc.).
Also, don’t forget about your pets. Dog houses aren’t safe during a storm; bring your pet inside your house. Also, don’t chain them to trees or any metal objects.
If There Are No Safe Shelters Around
If you’re outside during a storm and there are no safe shelters nearby, avoid open fields and hilltops. Also, avoid metal objects, water, and anything wet. If you’re with a group, spread out to prevent lightning from traveling between people.
Additionally, stay away from trees, tall objects, and isolated objects. If you’re in a forest and can’t avoid trees, stay by a lower section of trees. If you’re camping, set up camp in a low-lying area, such as a valley or ravine. And, remember, tents don’t provide any safety from lightning.
To avoid a dangerous situation like this, have a plan in place if you’re outside and severe weather strikes. Stay prepared by having a weather radio with you.