Lightning Safety Awareness Week: When thunder roars, go indoors


Special to The SUN

Lightning kills over 50 people in the U.S. each year and inflicts life-long debilitating injuries on hundreds more. Florida is the “thunderstorm capital” of the U.S., but other parts of the country have lots of lightning, too — especially in the southeast, midwest and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. However, all states have some lightning threat. Fortunately, most lightning deaths and injuries are easily avoided. Remember, no place outside is safe near a thunderstorm.

Lightning Safety Awareness Week is June 22-28. Learn more at

The first step in lightning safety is to plan your outdoor activities to avoid as much of the lightning threat as you can. Watch the local weather forecasts and know your local weather patterns. The forecast from your local National Weather Service office can be found at

When outside, keep an eye on the sky. If you are planning an outdoor event, bring along a NOAA weather radio or AM radio or Internet weather alert system and check it regularly. Most people are struck by lightning before or just after a storm. Why? Because they wait too long to seek shelter or go back outside too soon. So, if you hear thunder roar, go indoors — immediately. Don’t go outside until 30 minutes or more after hearing the last thunder.

The safest place from lightning is inside a large, fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing, e.g., a typical house. But stay away from any conducting path to the outside: corded telephones, electrical appliances and plumbing. Don’t watch lightning from doorways or windows.

If you can’t get to a house, a vehicle with a metal roof and metal sides is a good second choice. Roll up the windows, lean away from the door, and don’t touch any conducting path going outside, e.g., radio, keys in the ignition, steering wheel, etc. Remember, it’s not the rubber tires insulating you from the ground that make vehicles safe, but rather the metal shell that conducts the electricity around you. Convertibles, motorcycles, cars made of fiberglass and plastic, and open-shelled outdoor recreation vehicles aren’t safe.

If you can’t get to a house or vehicle, then at least avoid the most hazardous places and activities. Stay off elevated places, like mountains, buildings, high playground equipment, etc. Keep away from open areas, including sports fields and beaches. Get away from tall isolated objects like trees. Going under trees to keep dry persists in being the second-leading cause of lightning casualties in the U.S. Stop water-related activities, including swimming, boating and fishing. Get out of the open at the first hint of lightning threat. Get off of open vehicles like cabin-less tractors, bulldozers, four-wheel recreational vehicles, etc. But remember, no place outside is safe near a thunderstorm. You are much safer going inside a house or car.

All lightning deaths result from cardiac arrest. If you’re with a victim, call 9-1-1 to get professional medical help, then apply CPR if possible. A common myth is that lightning victims are electrified and dangerous to approach. False. About 90 percent of lightning victims survive, so first aid may save a life.

For more information on lightning safety, visit