So it’s been a mixed bag of weather over the last few weeks from soaring temperatures (sometimes making the UK hotter than the Bahama’s) to raging thunderstorms to rival that of any found in the equatorial tropical regions or even America’s tornado alley.

We’ve spoken before about the effects the extreme heat can have upon us both at work and home but what about these dramatic storms we’ve been seeing. What should we do then?

There are some simple steps you can take to improve your safety during a lightning storm.


Find shelter immediately

If you find yourself caught in a lightning storm, the key to minimizing danger is to get inside a protective structure. While most people seek shelter, people commonly wait too long to seek shelter. If you can detect lightning, it may be close enough to strike you. Don’t wait for it to strike right next to you (or on top of you) to get to safety.

Never stand under a tall or short tree, and avoid being close to power lines as they’re both excellent conductors of electricity and could potentially cause death, if not serious injury. Find shelter near or under a stony shelter, say a cavern or something.

    • Substantial, frequently inhabited buildings (those grounded with plumbing, electrical systems, and, if possible, lightning rods) are best.
    • If you can’t find a substantial structure, get in a car with a metal roof and sides. If the car is struck, the metal body will conduct the electricity around you, not through you. Make sure all windows are rolled up and doors are closed. Be careful not to lean against any metal — if you do, the lightning will be conducted into your body if it strikes the car. Do not use the radio.
    • Avoid small structures, such as stand-alone public restrooms. Open covering and rain shelters are also not suitable. These structures will attract lightning and provide no protection, making them more dangerous to be around.
    • Standing under a tree is a very bad choice. Lightning strikes tall objects, and if the tree you are standing under is struck, you may be struck as well or injured by the tree.
    • Bring in your pets. Doghouses and other pet shelters are not suitable protection against lightning strikes. A pet leashed to a fence has a much higher risk of getting struck by lightning.

Stay away from windows

Keep windows closed, and try to stay within inner rooms of the structure. Windows provide a direct path for the lightning to travel.


Don’t touch anything metal or electrical

Using a land line phone is the main cause of lightning-related injuries in the US. Lightning can travel into the home from through any material that conducts electricity. This includes landlines, electrical wiring, and plumbing.

    • Do not touch any electrical outlets during a storm. Do not unplug any devices during an lightning storm, as the strike could be transferred to you.
    • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls. Most concrete has a wire mesh which can conduct electricity
    • Stay out of the bathtub or shower, and avoid indoor swimming pools.
    • In a car, try to avoid touching any part of the metal frame or the car’s glass


Stay inside

Stay inside at least 30 minutes after the last strike. Don’t go out if the rain starts letting up. There is still a significant risk of lightning strikes from a departing storm


Minimize your risk

If you absolutely cannot reach shelter during a lightning storm, do everything you can to minimize your risk.

    • Move to a lower elevation. Lightning is much more likely to strike objects at higher elevations. Do what you can do get as low as possible.
    • Avoid large open spaces where you are taller than anything else around you, like a golf course or soccer field.
    • Stay away from isolated objects such as trees and light posts.
    • Get away from unprotected vehicles, such as golf carts, and unprotected structures, such as picnic shelters


Get out of the water

If you are fishing or swimming, get out of the water immediately, and move away from the body of water. Being near water is extremely dangerous during a lightning storm.


Spread out

If you are caught in a lightning storm with a group of people, maintain a distance of at least 50-100 feet between each person. This will reduce the risk of lightning travelling from one person to another.

    • Take a headcount after every close strike. This will ensure that anyone struck will get emergency attention quickly.


Remove your backpack

If you are hiking with a metal frame backpack, remove it as soon as you detect lightning. Make sure to leave it at least 100 feet from wherever you are taking shelter


Assume the “lightning crouch”

Squat down with your feet together, your head tucked to your chest or between your knees, and your hands covering your ears or flat against your knees. Do NOT lie flat on the ground, as this gives the lightning a larger target.

    • This is a difficult position to hold and it by no means guarantees your safety. However, by making it easier for a lightning strike to flow over your body rather than through vital organs, you may be able to sustain a smaller injury from it.
    • Cover your ears and close your eyes to protect against nearby thunder and bright lightning flashes


Be alert for an imminent lightning strike

If lightning is about to strike you or strike near you, your hair may stand on end, or you may feel a tingling in your skin. Light metal objects may vibrate, and you may hear a crackling sound or “kee kee” sound. If you detect any of these signals, assume the lightning crouch immediately.


Wear rubber boots

They are made of a material which is a bad electrical conductor.


Plan ahead

The best way to avoid injury from a lightning storm is to avoid it completely. Make your plans with dangerous weather in mind. Listen to the local weather forecast, and pay special attention to thunderstorm advisories.

    • Research the local climate: in some areas you can almost guarantee a thunderstorm on summer afternoons. Schedule your activities to avoid many high-risk situations. Those hot, muggy days are just the thing that a thunderstorm needs to get going


Watch the skies

When you’re out and about, watch the sky for signs of approaching thunderstorms, such as rain, darkening skies, or towering cumulonimbus clouds. If you can anticipate lightning before the first strike, you can avoid being caught in a bad situation.

    • Note that lightning can, however, strike even in the absence of these indicators.


Calculate the distance to the lightning

If conditions permit good visibility, and it’s not practical to seek shelter whenever you notice a strike, use the 30 second rule: if the time between a lightning flash and the resulting thunder is 30 seconds or less (aka 6 miles or less), get to shelter immediately


Plan your response

If you are in an area that you expect will see lightning storms, know where safe shelters are. Communicate your plans to your group so that everyone knows what to do in an emergency.


Prepare an emergency kit

Be ready with first aid and other disaster essentials. You may lose power during a thunderstorm, so have alternative light sources available


Install a lightning rod

If you live in a lightning-prone area, installing a lightning rod can help protect your family and your property

Have your lightning rod professionally installed. An incorrectly installed rod can increase the chance of a lightning strike

Lighting can be a mesmerising and awe inspiring phenomenon but it should be treated with respect and we should make plans to ensure our safety when these storms occur.


August 5, 2014 | Categories: Lighthouse Blog |
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