Lightning

Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.  It is impossible to prevent lightning, but the following steps can be taken to lessen your chances of injury.

Before a Storm

If a thunderstorm is imminent, postpone outdoor activities. Find shelter in a home, building, or hardtop automobile. You can be injured if lightning strikes your car, but it is still safer than remaining outdoors. 

While indoors, avoid showering or bathing as plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity. Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use. Remember to unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage. Lastly, use a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.

If outdoors, avoid the following:

  • Natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area
  • Hilltops, open fields, the beach, or a boat on the water
  • Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas
  • Anything metal, such as lawn mowers, motorcycles, golf clubs, and bicycles

During a Storm

If your skin tingles or your hair stands on end, this is usually an indication that a lightning strike is imminent. Crouch down on the balls of your feet with your feet close together. Keep your hands on your knees and lower your head. Get as low as possible without touching your hands or knees to the ground. DO NOT LIE FLAT ON THE GROUND.

Some follow the 30/30 lightning rule: When you see lightning, count to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.

Lightning Facts

  • Lightning's unpredictability increases the risk to individuals and property.
  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
  • Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
  • "Heat lightning" is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm might be moving in your direction.
  • Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000, but could be reduced even further by following safety precautions.
  • Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.

Lightning Fiction

  • Lightning never strikes twice: it hits the Empire State Building approximately 25 times a year.
  • Rubber tires or rubber-soled shoes provide insulation from lightning. This is a myth.
  • Lightning can be prevented. Unfortunately, it can not.
  • First strikes from lightning can be predicted.
  • New high-tech types of lightning rods can control lightning - this is an advertising claim.

Insured Damage

Property damage caused by lightning, including damage caused to electrical appliances and wiring, is covered under the property insurance program. If you have a lightning strike that causes damage, contact the Office of Risk Management Claims Manager immediately.