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NOAA Lightning Safety Brochure
Lightning is the most dangerous and frequently
encountered weather hazard that most physically
active people face each year. According to the
latest research, there are approximately 25
million lightning flashes in the
United States each year resulting in an average
deaths and an additional documented 300 injuries. While it
appears that the number of overall deaths from
lightning strikes is decreasing, trends show
that the number of injuries continues to rise.
And lightning casualties during sports and
recreational activities have risen alarmingly in
Most of the incidents occur between May and
September, and nearly four fifths occur between
10:00 AM and 7:00 PM. Lightning strike
casualties occur most often on Sunday and
Saturday, respectively, which coincides with the
time more people are physically active outdoors.
How to protect yourself
Always check the weather conditions before you
head outside. The heat of summer is prime for
lightning, and you should be aware of any storms
in your area or conditions that are right for
the development of thunderstorms. If you are
outside you should plan ahead and prepare a
lightning safety plan. Know where your nearest
shelter is and how long it will take you to get
Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from
the area where it is raining. That's about the
distance you can hear thunder. If you can
hear thunder, you are within striking distance.
Seek safe shelter immediately. WHEN
THUNDER ROARS, GO INDOORS! Wait 30
minutes after the last clap of thunder before
you go back outside.
Lightning Safety Recommendations
- Check the forecast and watch the sky
Before heading out, check your local
forecast. While outside look for darkening
skies, flashes of lightning, or increasing
wind, which may be signs of an approaching
thunderstorm. Consider postponing outdoor
activities to avoid being caught in a
- When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors
If you hear thunder, even a distant
rumble, immediately move to a safe place.
- Finding a safe shelter
Fully enclosed buildings with wiring and
plumbing provide the best protection.
Sheds, picnic shelters, tents or covered
porches do NOT protect you from lightning.
If a sturdy building is not nearby, get into
a hard-topped metal vehicle and close all
the window. If you are in a wooded
area with no shelter available, seek shelter
under a thick growth of relatively small
Stay inside until 30 minutes after the last
rumble of thunder.
Isolated trees or other tall objects. Never
take shelter under a tree. Also avoid bodies
of water, sheds, fences, convertibles,
tractors, bikes and motorcycles. Avoid
leaning against vehicles, and get off and
away from bicycles and motorcycles.
- Don't wait for rain to seek shelter
Many people take shelter from the rain, but
most people struck by lightning are not in
the rain. Go quickly inside a completely
enclosed building, not a carport, open
garage or covered patio. If no enclosed
building is convenient, get inside a
hard-topped all-metal vehicle.
- Get out of the water
Water is a great conductor of electricity.
stay off the beach and out of small boats or
canoes. If caught in a boat, crouch down in
the center of the boat away from metal
hardware. Swimming, wading, snorkeling and
scuba diving are NOT safe. Lightning can
strike the water and travel some distance
beneath and away from its point of contact.
Don't stand in puddles of water, even if
wearing rubber boots.
- Avoid any metal objects
Drop metal backpacks, stay away from clothes
lines, fences, exposed sheds and
electrically conductive elevated objects.
Don't hold on to metal items such golf
clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets or
- Do NOT stay in a group
Stay several yards away from other people.
Don't share a bleacher bench or huddle in a
- Indoor safety during a thunderstorm
If you hear thunder, don't use a corded
phone except in an emergency. Cordless
phones and cell phones are safe to use.
Keep away from electrical equipment and
wiring. Water pipes conduct electricity: do
not take a shower or bath or use other
plumbing during a thunderstorm.
Lightning Safety in the Mountains
According to the Colorado Lightning Resource
Center, "It is a hard fact that there is NO safe
place in the high country to be during a
lightning activity. There is nothing you can do
to guarantee safety if you are caught hiking in
the mountains during a lighting storm." Their
advice is to try to plan hikes and climbs early
and get off mountain peaks by 11:00 am. If you
are caught in an approaching storm, quickly get
below treeline and get into a grove of small
In the mountains there are accounts of people
being injured and killed while hiding in caves,
under rocks, in tents and under trees. Putting a
rubber mat under you to avoid being struck by
lightning is an old wives tale. The only thing
one can do if caught in the open while hiking in
the high country is to get in the lightning-safe
position and wait the storm out.
First Aide for Lightning Strikes
- Call for help.
Call 9-1-1 or your local ambulance service.
Get medical attention as quickly as
- Give first aid.
If the victim has stopped breathing, begin
rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped
beating, a trained person should give CPR.
Use an Automatic External Defibrillator if
one is available. If the person has a pulse and is breathing,
address any other injuries.
- Check for burns in two places.
The injured person has received an electric
shock and may be burned, both where they
were struck and where the electricity left
their body. Being struck by lightning can
also cause nervous system damage, broken
bones, and loss of hearing or eyesight.
People struck by lightning carry no
electrical charge and can not shock other