Lightning Safety: What to Do in a Lightning Storm Outside

Lightning storms can be very dangerous for those caught in their path, but knowing what to do in a lightning storm should help you to avoid the worst. This guide will cover key lightning safety tips, as well as answering common questions related to lightning storms, like “What happens if you get struck by lightning”, and “Can you survive a lightning strike?”

What to Do if Someone Got Struck By Lightning?

  • Call for emergency medical aid immediately: The first step when someone has been struck by lightning is to call for medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Don’t assume someone else has called for help – make the call yourself to ensure that help is on the way.
  • Move the person to a safe location: If the person is conscious and able to move, help them move to a safe location away from the storm. If there is no safe location nearby, move the person away from metal objects, bodies of water, and tall objects.
  • Check the person’s breathing and pulse: Check the person’s airway, breathing, and pulse. If they are not breathing or do not have a pulse, start CPR immediately.
  • Treat any burns: Lightning strikes can cause burns, so look for any signs of burns on the person’s skin. If there are burns, cool them with running water for at least 10 minutes. Don’t apply ice or ointments to the burn.
  • Monitor the person’s condition: Keep a close eye on the person’s condition while waiting for medical help to arrive. If their condition worsens, start CPR immediately.
  • Provide basic first aid: If the person is conscious and able to communicate, provide basic first aid as needed. Keep the person comfortable, warm, and calm.
  • Don’t move the person if there are any signs of broken bones: If the person has any signs of broken bones or other injuries, do not move them. Wait for medical help to arrive.
  • Avoid giving the person anything to eat or drink: If the person is conscious and able to communicate, do not give them anything to eat or drink. This can cause problems if the person needs surgery.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives: Stay with the person until medical help arrives. Comfort them and keep them calm.
  • Follow up with medical care: Even if the person appears to be okay after a lightning strike, it is important to follow up with medical care. Lightning strikes can cause internal injuries that may not be immediately apparent, so it’s important to get a medical evaluation as soon as possible.
  • If multiple people have been struck, those who are unconscious require the most urgent treatment.
  • CPR can be used as lightning strike treatment to revive a lightning strike victim who appears to be unconscious or isn’t breathing.
  • You can safely perform CPR or move a person who has been struck by lightning as they are not dangerous or carrying a charge.

What Happens When You Get Struck By Lightning?

What happens when you are struck by lightning? Injuries can vary and may be very severe. Victims of lightning strikes may suffer cardiac arrest, which may result in respiratory arrest, strokes, and brain hemorrhages. Despite the high risk, most lightning strikes are not fatal, but can still cause severe burns, internal injuries, and long-term health issues. Knowing what to do in a lightning storm outside can vastly improve a person’s chances of surviving a storm unscathed.

  • Burns: Lightning strikes can cause burns to the skin due to the intense heat generated by the electrical discharge. These burns can range from mild to severe, and may even result in permanent scarring.
  • Internal injuries: Lightning can cause damage to internal organs, including the lungs, heart, and brain. This can lead to long-term health problems or even death.
  • Cardiac arrest: Lightning strikes can cause cardiac arrest, which is a sudden loss of heart function. This can be fatal if not treated immediately.
  • Broken bones: The force of a lightning strike can cause broken bones, especially if the person is thrown or knocked down by the impact.
  • Hearing loss: Lightning strikes can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss due to the loud thunderclap that accompanies the strike.
  • Vision problems: Lightning can cause temporary or permanent vision problems due to the intense flash of light that accompanies the strike.
  • Nervous system damage: Lightning strikes can cause damage to the nervous system, which can lead to long-term health problems such as chronic pain, headaches, and muscle weakness.
  • Psychological effects: Lightning strikes can cause psychological trauma, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How to Avoid Getting Struck By Lightning?

  • Seek indoor shelter immediately when lightning is in the area. Indoors is the safest place to be during a storm, even if lightning can still strike a person indoors or kill you in a house.
  • Avoid open areas and high ground, as well as bodies of water, like lakes and ponds. These areas are more likely to attract lightning strikes.
  • Stay away from tall objects like trees, poles, or metal objects, which are conductors of electricity.
  • If you’re with a group of people, spread out to reduce the risk of multiple people getting struck by lightning at the same time.
  • If you’re unable to find shelter, crouch down low with your feet close together and your head tucked down. Avoid lying flat on the ground.
  • Don’t touch any objects that conduct electricity, such as metal fences, electrical equipment, or pylons.
  • Avoid using any electrical items like computers or phones that require cords, and unplug any devices before the storm arrives.
  • Don’t take a bath or shower during a lightning storm, as water can conduct electricity.
  • If you’re outside and lightning strikes near you, try to remain calm and move away from tall objects or bodies of water.
  • Pay attention to weather forecasts and local alerts or warnings to prepare for oncoming storms.
  • Learn what to do if someone is struck by lightning, so you can provide immediate medical attention if needed.

Video courtesy of CNN.

Safest Place During A Lightning Storm

  • Seek indoor shelter: The safest place to be during a lightning storm is inside a fully enclosed building with electrical wiring and plumbing. Avoid small sheds or outdoor shelters, as they offer little protection.
  • Avoid tall objects: Stay away from tall objects such as trees, flagpoles, and metal poles, as they attract lightning.
  • Avoid open areas: Stay away from open areas such as fields, parks, and golf courses. If you’re in an open area and can’t get to a building or vehicle, crouch down low with your head tucked and avoid being the tallest object.
  • Avoid bodies of water: Stay away from bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and swimming pools. Lightning can travel through the water and electrocute you.
  • Unplug electronic devices: Avoid using any electronic devices that are connected to an electrical outlet or have a power cord. This includes computers, televisions, and landline phones. Unplug as many devices as you can before the storm arrives.
  • Seek shelter in an enclosed building: Seek shelter in a fully enclosed building, such as a house, office, or store. Avoid using open garages, porches, or picnic shelters.
  • Use a car as a last resort: If you can’t get inside a building, a car with a hard metal top and closed windows can offer some protection. However, note that a car does not provide complete safety from lightning, and it’s still safer to be inside a building. If you’re in a car during a lightning storm, avoid touching any metal parts of the car, including the steering wheel, and don’t use electronic devices.
  • Stay away from windows: If you’re inside a building during a lightning storm, stay away from windows, doors, and porches. If lightning strikes the building, it can travel through these openings and cause injury.
  • Stay inside: Even if the storm appears to have passed, stay inside for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder. Lightning can strike from as far as 10 miles away from the storm, and the danger can continue even after the storm has moved on.
  • Plan ahead: Before a storm arrives, make sure you have a plan in place for where you will go for safety. Identify safe places in your home, workplace, or school, and make sure everyone in your family or group knows where to go.

Lightning Safety FAQ

What Happens When Lightning Strikes A Person?

Lightning strikes can cause serious harm to a person. Although not all lightning strikes are fatal, they can still cause severe injuries. When lightning strikes a person, the electrical current can damage the body’s tissues and organs, leading to burns, muscle pains, broken bones, internal injuries, and cardiac arrest. The severity of the injuries will depend on various factors, including the strength and duration of the strike, the person’s overall health, and the medical response they receive.

Is It Safe To Drive With Lightning?

In general, it is safe to continue driving during a lightning storm. If lightning strikes your vehicle, it will likely be absorbed harmlessly by the car’s metal frame. However, it is important to remain alert and focused on the road, as the storm can cause poor visibility and hazardous driving conditions. To reduce the risk of injury, it is recommended that you wind up all windows and avoid touching any metal parts inside the car.

Can You Get Struck By Lightning Through A Window?

Yes, lightning can pass through open windows and doors, increasing the risk of injury or damage. It is crucial to keep windows and doors closed during a lightning storm and avoid using any electrical devices or appliances that are plugged in.

What To Do If Lightning Strikes Your House?

If your house gets struck by lightning, it is important to stay inside and avoid any contact with electrical devices, water faucets, and metal objects. If possible, unplug all electronic devices and avoid using them until the storm passes. If you notice any damage to your home or suspect a fire, contact emergency services immediately.

Is It Safe To Use a Phone During Lightning?

Using a cordless or cell phone during a lightning storm is generally safe, as these devices do not have a direct connection to the electrical system. However, it is recommended that you avoid using corded or landline phones, as they can conduct electricity and increase the risk of injury or damage. It is also advisable to stay away from any electrical devices or appliances that are plugged in during a storm.

Lightning Safety Resources

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