When Lightning Strikes: Storm Safety

Lightning is nature's underrated killer

When we think of summer we think of visiting the beach, riding the waves in the ocean, and days lounging at the local pool. The last thing we think about is lightning safety. Luckily for you, I am safety-obsessed (yes, I did just write about bear safety tips) and am going to share with you a few important safety tips when it comes to lightning.

Lightning is nature's underrated killer, claiming more victims every year than tornadoes and hurricanes combined. In fact, lightning is the second largest weather-related killer—floods are the worst. The chances of getting hit by lightning during your lifetime is about 1 in 3,000. Most lightning deaths and injuries in the United States occur during the summer months, when the combination of lightning and outdoor activities is at its highest.

The most important factor to staying safe, is to be educated about what to do if you are outdoors when lightning strikes. Here are the important safety tips to learn and follow yourself, as well as to teach your kids:

General lightning safety tips:

  • Always avoid being the highest object anywhere. Do not take shelter near or under the highest object, including tall trees. Avoid water, high ground, and wide open spaces. In addition, avoid all metal objects such as fences, machinery, and power tools.

  • Lightning can occur before and after storms, so be careful even after you think the storm has ended.

  • Lightning can strike the same place twice, and often does. There are no "safe" places. Lightning strikes the Empire State Building more than 20 times a year!

  • Lightning can strike indoors. During (and after) a storm, stay away from windows and doors and avoid contact with anything that conducts electricity, including landline telephones. The majority of lightning injuries in the home are to people talking on the telephone.

  • People who are struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge, and it is absolutely safe to touch them. First aid should be applied immediately, and emergency help gotten as quickly as possible.

Safety tips if you are unable to seek shelter:

  • If you are caught outside during a thunderstorm with no shelter around, find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles.

  • Crouch down low to the ground, put your feet together, and make yourself the smallest target possible. Cover your ears to minimize hearing damage from thunder.

  • Avoid proximity to other people, keeping a distance of at least 15 feet.

  • Seek clumps of shrubs or trees of uniform height. Seek ditches, trenches, and other areas of low ground.

  • Do not seek shelter in a shallow cave, especially if it is in an old mine, which could have metallics nearby.

Safety tips to teach kids:

  • Share lightning safety tips with your kids. Make sure they know to never stand under a tree, on top of a hill, or be in or near water during a storm.

  • Teach your kids to follow these easy-to-remember lightning safety slogans:"If you can hear it, clear it. If you can see it, flee it" and  "When thunder roars, go indoors." 

  • Make sure kids know that if they are in a pool, lake, or the ocean, they need to get out as soon as it looks like a storm is coming—lightning can precede actual rainfall. And, activities should not resume until 30 minutes after the storm has ended. If they can't decide whether to end an organized outdoor activity, follow the rules "Better safe than sorry," and "Don't be lame, end the game."

More Lightning Safety Resources

The National Lightning Safety Institute has lots of resources including Personal Lightning Safety TipsLightning Safety for Organized Outdoor Athletic Events and Lightning Safety for Campers and Hikers.

NOAA has Lightning Safety information as well, with an OverviewIndoor Safety Tips and tips for Risk Reduction Outdoors. There's also a Kids Corner.

Do you have a lightning-safety story to share? Comment below!


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Essex County Real Mom Anna Sandler lives happily ever after with her Jersey-raised husband and three NYC-born children in the land of jug handles and disco fries. She loves baking and crafting with her kids, even if everything they make doesn't turns out Pinterest-perfect. Anna has never met a holiday she doesn't want to celebrate, and enjoys sharing ideas for everyday fun (indoor beach party, anyone?), as well as how to commemorate bigger moments from birthdays to first days of school.

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