To stay safe, there are a number of different safety precautions you should follow if you get caught up in a thunderstorm. In the event of a storm, safety procedures must always be followed both indoors and out.
Don’t be caught out
If a thunderstorm has been forecast, don’t be fooled if you can see white clouds and clear blue skies overhead. Listen to the warnings, as a thunderstorm can strike rapidly. Within moments, you will hear the rumbling of thunder, the sky will go black and suddenly there will be a flash of lightning!
If you are caught out, the last thing you should do is shelter under trees. Similarly, don’t shelter near or under any metal structures.
The power of lightning should never be underestimated. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by statistics which show the odds of being struck by lightning are only 500,000/1, as there are factors that can escalate the risk.
Outdoor workers or those who take part in outdoor sports and recreational activities are more at risk of being struck by lightning. There are also seasonal and regional variants which can increase the risks. Serious consequences result from lightning strikes – one of the main causes of weather-related deaths. In the period 2004 to 2013, an average of 33 deaths per year were caused by lightning.
At the first inkling of lightning you should take precautions immediately if you’re outdoors. Postpone an outdoor activity or trip if lightning is forecast. If you’re unexpectedly caught out, always remember the 30-30 rule. When you see lightning, begin counting to 30 and if you can hear the thunder before you’ve reached 30, go indoors straight away whenever possible. Don’t go outdoors again until at least 30 minutes after hearing the last thunderclap.
When you’re stuck outdoors and can’t find safe shelter, crouch low but make sure only your feet and not your body are touching the ground – electric currents can run along the ground and kill you, even if you’re more than 100 feet from the lightning strike.
Always remember that lightning can travel fast through metal bars or wires in concrete walls or floors, so stay away from these structures.
Safety precautions indoors
Although you’re safer indoors, this doesn’t automatically protect you and statistics show that one-third of lightning-related injuries occur indoors. Specific safety precautions include avoiding contact with water during a thunderstorm, as lightning travels through plumbing systems.
Don’t use electronic equipment in the home – a lightning strike will travel quickly through electrical systems such as televisions and radio equipment and corded phones. It’s safe to use a mobile phone during a thunderstorm.
Although lightning strikes are rare, there’s always a risk they will happen and it’s crucial that you follow these simple precautions to minimise risks to your safety… after all, we are not all as lucky as Roy Sullivan!