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How to Protect Yourself in a Thunderstorm

Four Parts:Taking Shelter and Staying SafeSurviving Thunderstorms OutsideTaking PrecautionsTreating Lightning Strike Victims

Lightning is a beautiful and inspiring phenomenon, but it can be deadly. Over the past 30 years, lightning has killed an average of 67 people per year in the United States alone. Fortunately, most lightning-related deaths are preventable. Follow these steps to safety the next time there’s fire in the sky.

Part 1
Taking Shelter and Staying Safe

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    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 if lightning appears to be near, 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 . [1]
    • 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.
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    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.
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    Don’t touch anything metal or electrical. Using a landline 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 a 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.
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    Stay inside. Stay inside at least 30 minutes after the last strike. Don’t go out just because the rain is starting to let up. There is still a significant risk of lightning strikes from a departing storm.

Part 2
Surviving Thunderstorms Outside

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    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. Avoid long metal structures, i.e. bleachers.
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    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.
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    Spread out. If you are caught in a lightning storm with a group of people, maintain a distance of at least 50–100 feet (15.2–30.5 m) between each person. This will reduce the risk of lightning traveling from one person to another.
    • Take a headcount after every close strike. This will ensure that anyone struck will get emergency attention quickly.
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    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 (30.5 m) from wherever you are taking shelter.[2]
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    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.
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    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.
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    Wear rubber boots. They are made of a material which is a bad electrical conductor.

Part 3
Taking Precautions

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    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.[3]
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    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.
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    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 (9.7 km) or less), get to shelter immediately.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.

Part 4
Treating Lightning Strike Victims

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    Call emergency services. Because lightning strikes can cause cardiac arrest, aggressive resuscitation may be necessary. If you cannot dial 9-1-1, designate someone else to.
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    Make sure it is safe to help. Do not put yourself in danger trying to help a lightning strike victim. Either wait until the immediate danger has passed, or move the victim to a safer location.
    • Despite the common myth, lightning can strike the same place twice.
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    Start CPR. People struck by lightning do not retain an electrical charge, so you can immediately touch them and begin treatment. Do not remove the burned clothes unless absolutely necessary.
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    Treat the victim for shock. Lay the victim down on his or her back with the head resting slightly lower than the torso. Elevate and support the legs.[4]


  • Stay away from windows in case of one breaks from the wind.
  • Small boats are dangerous places to be in a thunderstorm. If you can’t get to shore, however, do not enter the water — stay in the boat, even if it’s an open sailboat with a mast. There is a mistaken belief that being in the water is safer, but lightning can just as easily strike water (or the electrical charge can be carried through water), and if you’re struck and rendered unconscious, you don’t want to be in the water.
  • If a thunderstorm is approaching, protect electronics and electric appliances by unplugging them in advance. Don't use corded telephones, as lightning can travel through the cords. Do not unplug anything during a lightning storm, only in advance.
  • Wear as much as rubber as possible. Rubber is a bad conductor and lightning will often bounce off it or sink into it. Also avoid touching metal as lightning travels around metal and touching it will make it travel to you.
  • Lightning can travel several feet through the ground, so distance yourself from tall, isolated objects. By the same reasoning, be aware that a person may have been hit by lightning, even if you didn’t see the lightning hit the person.
  • Commercial lightning detection devices and weather warning services are available and should be considered for use by golf courses, parks, etc.
  • Wearing portable electronics with headphones during a lightning storm can increase the likelihood of severe injury in the case of a strike - not only to the ears, but to anywhere on the body that the headphone cables lay against.
  • When adopting the lightning crouch, protect your ears. The thunder is dangerously loud.
  • Lightning does not only happen during thunderstorms; it can also happen during volcanic eruptions. So you should also know about volcano safety and lightning safety. The more ash there is the more likely lightning will strike.
  • Lightning is common in the summer throughout much of the United States. Florida receives the most lightning strikes per square mile per year.
  • If you are located in a house, you could go in a basement to protect yourself from trees.
  • Never go under a tree when there's a thunder storm!


  • When seeking lower ground, try to choose an area that is safe from flooding.
  • Do not attempt to watch a storm through an open window or door or from a porch. Unenclosed areas are not safe, even if in a suitable shelter.
  • Severe thunderstorms can (and sometimes do) produce tornadoes with little or no warning. *Keep alert for potentially life-threatening weather if the storm(s) in the area are particularly strong. Stay alert even if there were no thunderstorm warnings issued.
  • Do not touch someone if they are being electrocuted (unless using non-conductible materials like wood, plastic, rubber, etc.).

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