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How to Protect Yourself in a Lightning Storm

Updated on February 13, 2014
Seckin Esen profile image

Seçkin Esen is working as an English language teacher in Turkey. He obtained his Bachelor's degree in ELT from Hacettepe University in 2010.

Protect Yourself from Lightning

Lightning is a massive discharge of atmospheric electricity which can occur suddenly and without warning. Although it kills lots of people every year, most lightning related deaths are preventable. It’s important to know how to protect yourself when a lightning storm begins.

When You Are Outside

Some people stand under trees or in open shelters like picnic areas in order to protect themselves. However, this can be a fatal mistake. Tall objects are likely to attract lightning, so when you are out in the open, you should try to make yourself as small as possible. Crouching down or curling up into a ball lessens the chance that a lightning bolt will strike you. Finding a depression in the ground to hide in, like a hole or a ditch is even better.

When You Are Inside

Being inside a building is safer than being outside, but it’s not without dangers. Be careful to stay away from doors and windows, then follow these instructions:

1. Avoid Using Electrical Devices:

If you are talking on a phone with a cord, hang up. Lightning is known to travel along a phone cord so it can strike the person holding the phone.

Besides, televisions, computer and any other electrical devices can conduct lightning through the cables, so it’s a good idea to unplug any electrical devices when you are not using them.

2. Use Surge Protectors:

Surge protectors are safety plugs designed to protect electrical devices like televisions, computers and air conditioners. They will automatically shut the electricity down if a lightning strikes.

3. Avoid Water:

It’s also inadvisable to take a shower or bath since plumbing can conduct electricity from lightning. Also, do not wash your hands or do dishes during the storm.

How Safe Are Cars?

You might be surprised, but the inside of a car is safe as long as it has a metal roof, but you should avoid touching any part of the car that leads to the outside.

30 – 30 Rule

As soon as you see lightning, begin counting the seconds until you hear thunder. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, this means you need to seek shelter immediately.

Additionally, even if the storm has passed, you want to stay in a protected place for 30 minutes after you hear the last sounds of thunder or have seen the last flashes of lightning. Many lightning deaths, in fact more than half in the United States, occur after a storm has passed.

© 2012 Seckin Esen


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