How to Protect Yourself from Lightning

Lightning kills 50-100 people each year in the United States, mostly during the spring-summer thunderstorm season. June is the worst month followed by August, July, April and September. States with the highest incidents of lightning deaths are Florida, Texas and North Carolina.

The best way to avoid getting trapped in lightning is to listen to your weather report and avoid going outdoors when a thunderstorm is predicted. But if you find yourself outdoors here are some tips to help you stay safe.

  •  Thunder is a sign that lightning is not far away. According to researchers, if you hear thunder, the lightning is probably within ten miles. The shorter the time elapsed between when you see lightning and hear thunder, the closer the lightning is. Remember this safety slogan, "If you can see it - flee it; if you can hear it - clear it."
  • The best shelter from lightning is a permanent building; small buildings or sheds aren’t as safe. Vehicles with metal roofs are also safe, but do not touch any metal surfaces and keep all windows closed. In addition, underneath canopies, small picnic or rain shelters, or near tress are all UNSAFE places to be. Standing under trees, in fact, accounts for 18 percent of lightning deaths and 13 percent of injuries.
  • When outside during a thunderstorm, avoid water. Boating, fishing or other related activities account for 13 percent of lightning deaths and 6 percent of injuries.
  • Avoid high ground. Also avoid open spaces. Open spaces, fields, and ballparks account for 28 percent of lightning deaths and 29 percent of lightning injuries.
  • All metal objects including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors, and power tools should not be used.
  • If lightning is very close and no building is nearby, you should crouch down and put your feet together. Place your hands over your ears to minimize hearing damage from thunder. Avoid being closer than 15 ft. from other people.
  • If you are indoors during the thunderstorm, avoid water and stay away from doors and windows.
  • Do not use the telephone. Take off headsets. Turn off, unplug and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools and TV sets.
  • Lightning may strike exterior electric and phone lines, sending shocks to inside equipment.
  • You should also suspend activities mentioned above for 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder.
  • Injured persons do not carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely.
  • Apply First Aid procedures to a lightning victim if you are qualified to do so. Call 911 or send for help immediately. 

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