Lightning Safety and Preparedness

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!”

National Lightning Safety Awareness Week 21-27 June 2009

This week is National Lightning Safety week so let’s take a few minutes to talk about lightning and how it affects preppers.  There isn’t much you can do to prep for lightning to hit you, if that happens you better be right with God.  But what about lightning hitting near you – your home, your neighborhood, etc. The biggest impact of a lightning strike for us is usually the power being out.  It turns out that there are plenty of things you can do to try to encourage lightning to not hit you.

There are an estimated 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes each year in the U.S.   So far in 2009, there have been 15 fatalities due to lightning. On average, there are 400 people hit by lightning each year, resulting in about 80 deaths.

Since 1950, 57 people have been killed in Utah by being struck by lightning.

On September 1, 1939, lightning hit and killed 835 sheep on the top of Pine Canyon in the Raft River Mountains of Box Elder County, Utah.

On June 28, 1956, a lightning bolt struck the top of a home in Cedar City, Utah, leaving a 10-foot wide hole in the roof.

So, while it’s not the biggest risk out there, lightning is definitely something to take the time to think about.

Here are some quick tips for keeping safe in your home during a lightning storm:

  • Avoid contact with corded phones
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords
  • Avoid contact with plumbing – don’t wash hands, shower, do dishes or laundry
  • Stay away from windows and doors, stay off porches
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean on concrete walls

Building Safety:

A safe building is one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls and floor, and has plumbing or wiring. Examples of safe buildings include a home, school, church, hotel, office building or shopping center.  Once inside, you should take some basic precautions.

Unsafe building include car ports, open garages, covered patios, picnic shelters, beach pavilions, golf shelters, tents of any kinds, baseball dugouts, sheds and greenhouses.

Vehicle Safety:

A safe vehicle is any fully enclosed metal topped vehicle such as a hard topped car, minivan, bus, truck, etc. If you drive into a thunderstorm, slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area, Do NOT leave the vehicle during a thunderstorm.

Unsafe vehicle include convertibles, golf carts, riding mowers, open cab construction equipment and boats without cabins.

While inside a safe vehicle, do not use electronic devices such as radio communications during a thunderstorm. Lightning striking the vehicle, especially the antenna(s), could cause serious injury if you are talking on the radio or holding the microphone at the time of the flash. Emergency officials such as police officers, firefighters and security officers should be extremely cautious using radio equipment when lightning is in the area.

Outdoor Precautions:

If you can’t get indoors, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk while outside:

If camping, hiking, etc., far from a safe vehicle or building, avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top. Keep your site away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees. If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting. If you are camping and your vehicle is nearby, run to it before the storm arrives.

Stay away from water, wet items such as ropes and metal objects, such as fences and poles. Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances

Dead cows lined up along a metallic fence.  Lightning struck the fence and the current traveled along the fence killing the cows.
Dead cows lined up along a metallic fence. Lightning struck the fence and the current traveled along the fence killing the cows.

I was surprised to find while researching this post that most of what I thought I knew about lightning was a myth.  Check out this page to read the debunking of these lightning myths:

  1. Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
  2. If it’s not raining, or if clouds aren’t overhead, I’m safe from lightning.
  3. Rubber tires protect you from lightning in a car by insulating you from the ground.
  4. A lightning victim is electrified.  If you touch them, you’ll be electrocuted.
  5. If outside in a thunderstorm, go under a tree and stay dry.
  6. I’m in a house, I’m safe from lightning.
  7. When playing sports and thunderstorms threaten, it’s ok to finish the game.
  8. Structures with metal, or metal on the body attract lightning.
  9. If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, lie flat on the ground.
  10. Go near a tall pointy isolated object when thunderstorms threaten, to be within the 45 degree point of protection.

5 Replies to “Lightning Safety and Preparedness”

  1. WOW! The cows must have terrible luck! All of them trying to get over that fence to be happy california cows and BAM! Struck dead. Haha.

    BTW – Great informative post.

  2. WOW! The cows must have terrible luck! All of them trying to get over that fence to be happy california cows and BAM! Struck dead. Haha.

    BTW – Great informative post.

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