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Stay Safe During a Lightning Storm

The forecast calls for a chance of thunderstorms. That may not require you to cancel your outdoor plans, but take the threat of lightning seriously. Your odds of being struck by lightning are better than you think. In fact, you have a much better chance of being struck by lightning than you do of winning a mega lottery.

Myths about lightning and thunderstorms

Everyone has heard myths about lightning and thunderstorms. Don’t base your trust and safety on any of the following:

  • Lightning never strikes the same place twice. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the Empire State Building gets struck by lightning 25 times per year.
  • Lightning only strikes tall objects. Lightning doesn't discriminate and can strike short objects anywhere.
  • Being under a tree is better than nothing. Being under a tree is one of the worst things you can do during a lightning storm.
  • A car’s tires will protect you. A car’s metal hood and sides can divert lightning around you, but rubber tires have nothing to do with it.
  • Wearing metal attracts lightning. The presence of metal makes no difference to the human body’s odds of being struck by lightning.
  • If you’re stuck outside, lie down. The more of your body that’s on the ground, the greater the chance of electrocution.
  • If you don’t see rain or clouds, you’re safe. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from a thunderstorm.

Now that you know what’s not true, here are some scientifically proven steps you can take to stay safe.

Be safe outside during a storm

The best defense is to avoid lightning. Always remember when thunder roars, go indoors. Being inside is always safer than being outside. Other tips to remember include:

  • Be aware. Always keep an eye on the weather when planning outdoor activities.
  • Don’t forget the 30-30 rule. When you see lightning, count to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go inside for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
  • If you can’t get indoors, crouch down with your feet and knees together, and your head tucked with your hands over your ears. You want as little contact with the ground as possible.
  • Separate if you’re with a group of people and spread out.
  • Avoid open cars (like convertibles and golf carts) and open or tall structures.

Be safe inside during a storm

Being indoors does not automatically protect you from lightning. Roughly one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors. If you’re indoors during a thunderstorm, remember to:

  • Avoid water: Lightning can travel through plumbing.
  • Avoid electronic equipment: Lightning can travel through electrical systems as well as radio and television receivers.
  • Avoid corded phones: Cell phones are safe to use.
  • Avoid doors, windows and porches.
  • Avoid concrete floors or walls. Lightning can travel through metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

Being struck by lightning is a rare occurrence, but it can cause serious injury or even death. Always take thunderstorms seriously and use these safety precautions.