Every year, people are severely injured or even killed after being struck by lightning. In many instances, injury can be avoided by remembering a few basic safety measures when thunderstorms with lightning are forming. Quickly seeking safe shelter in an enclosed structure, ideally one which includes some kind of lightning protection, and staying away from windows, plumbing, and electrical appliances can help you avoid lightning.
Many people are not aware that thunder is an excellent warning sign that you are within range of lightning activity. If you can hear thunder nearby or at a distance, you are likely within range of lightning activity. Keeping this thought in mind will spur you to take proper shelter quickly and thus avoid lightning contact.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands what types of shelter are safe and which are not. Some people still think that settling under a tree with thick foliage will provide protection from lighting strike injuries. In fact, trees are extremely vulnerable to lighting strikes. Along with the fact that trees are taller and therefore much more likely to attract the activity, the moisture that collects on the branches, leaves, and trunk make trees excellent conductors. As a result, someone seeking shelter under tree branches could very well receive quite a shock should a bolt strike anywhere along the surface of the tree.
The best way to avoid lightning is to seek shelter in a large structure that is enclosed. The protection afforded by a substantially constructed house or other building cannot be underestimated. Being indoors and away from various types of conducting agents greatly minimizes the chances of being hurt due to a burst of lightning.
Even when in a secure building, there is still the need to take a few precautions. Stay away from windows, as lightning bolts striking nearby could shatter glass and lead to an injury. Avoid plumbing, since lightning activity could use the water and metal to conduct electricity. Make sure to refrain from using electrical appliances, since the bolts could strike outdoor power sources such as wiring and lead to a shock if you switch on a lamp. Instead of watching television or using the home computer, settle in with a good book or have a conversation with others in the home.
If you are unable to get to a building, taking shelter in a vehicle with a hard metal roof may provide adequate protection. Keep the windows rolled up to avoid allowing water to collect on the doorframes. Also, try to avoid running the air conditioning or playing the radio while lightning is still in the area; refraining from using electrical devices in the vehicle will decrease the chances of attracting the lightning substantially. Don't touch anything metal inside the car, including the steering wheel.
If you're stuck outside, there are still some precautions you can take. Don't stand in an open area like a beach or field; you don't want to be the tallest thing in the area. Move to the lowest point you can. Avoid isolated, tall objects, like trees or light poles; metal objects, like fences; and water.
As a last resort, crouch low to the ground with your hands over your head. Your feet should be close together and your body touching as little of the ground as possible. Don't group closely together with other people, because if lighting hits one member of the group, it could also hurt the others.
Once the storm is over, it is still important to take precautions in order to avoid lightning. If at all possible, remain indoors for at least 30 minutes after the last of the thunder and lightning passes. After that amount of time, there is a good chance the storm has moved on and is no longer a threat. Once you are sure the lighting has passed, you can resume your usual activities.
Practicing lightning safety involves taking a proactive approach to your well-being. The task to avoid lightning requires that you remove yourself from any setting where lightning is likely to strike, and avoid contact with any substance that could serve as a conductor of electricity. By doing so, you greatly decrease your chances of being struck and sustaining injuries that could be debilitating or possibly fatal.