Staying safe when lightning strikes

During the summer weather, it can be tempting to play one more hole of golf, hike just one more mile, or throw a few more pitches to a budding baseball player. But if lightning is in the area, those decisions can be dangerous. Lightning is the third largest storm-related killer in the U.S., and causes nearly $1 billion in damages a year. While summer is peak season for thunderstorms and lightning, storms can strike any time year-round. And, each flash of lightning carries the potential for injury and property damage. Staying safe is critical. That is why we have gathered important information here that will help you protect yourself and your loved ones.

What is my best protection against lightning?

First, understand there is no safe place outside during a lightning storm. If thunderstorms are expected, you should stop any outdoor activities quickly – even if you are still mowing the lawn or enjoying your picnic. Many lightning casualties occur because people fail to seek shelter soon enough. Be sure to monitor local weather conditions and have a plan if thunderstorms are expected. Your home’s best protection against a lightning strike is a lightning protection system; you can contact a certified lightning protection specialist for more information.

What do I do if I am caught outside in a lightning storm?

As soon as you hear thunder, stop all outdoor activities immediately and safely get into a building or a hard-topped vehicle. It may be tempting to get into a golf cart or a lean-to, but those will not provide adequate protection. If you absolutely cannot get to safety, try to stay away from open fields, hilltops, tall trees or other tall objects. Drop to your knees and crouch, but do not lie flat on the ground. You should avoid water and anything metal, such as golf clubs or bicycles.

What do I do if I am driving during a storm?

Safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on emergency flashers until the storm subsides. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that can conduct electricity.

How do I protect myself indoors?

You may want to pass the time by watching television or going on line, but your best bet is to unplug televisions, computers and any other high-value electronics well before the storm hits. Once the storm begins, do not touch any electrical equipment or cords, including corded phones. You can use cellular or cordless phones. Stay away from windows and doors and do not go on porches.

What if my house is hit by lightning?

Call 911 immediately and evacuate your home if you see fire or smoke. You may want to ask your local fire department to check for hot spots in your walls. If you use gas for heating and cooking – contact your gas company or a licensed contractor to conduct a leak test before re-entering. Gas system components have been known to be punctured as a result of direct or nearby lightning strikes.