Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

Be Prepared Before Lightning Strikes

Tom and Joanne O’Toole, CamperWays



When you hear thunder in the distance, there’s a potential for lightning strikes in your area. Know what to do to best protect yourself from danger. Statistics show that lightning causes more than 200 deaths each year across North America, and probably 10 times that many people are injured.

Because lightning can carry up to a billion volts, and can reach temperatures as hot as the surface of the sun, it’s nothing to fool with.

There are many time-worn precautions to help people avoid getting a voltage jolt from a lightning strike. A few suggestions, if you are inside during a thunderstorm:

• Shut all windows.
• Don’t do dishes.
• Stay out of the bath or shower.
• Don’t touch plumbing fixtures.
• Stay off the telephone unless it’s an emergency.
• Do not use electrical appliances.
• Unplug TV sets, computers and other appliances to avoid damage.

If caught outdoors in a storm, and you feel tingly skin, or if your hair stands on end, you might be targeted for a hit. Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet, with your head between or over your knees. Never lie flat on the ground. Many who have survived a lightning strike say they heard a high-pitched whine or smelled something burning just before being hit.

If you are outside and a storm arrives, here are a few good rules of thumb for defensive actions and preventive measures you can take for personal safety.

• A car, truck or van offers some protection because the rubber tires ground the lightning bolt. However, an outside truck bed is a dangerous location. Close all the windows.
• Completely avoid picnic pavilions, open-sided rain shelters, isolated trees, bicycles, tents, golf carts and any item containing metal (umbrellas, for example).
• If near a building, get inside and close the windows and doors.
• If you are wearing shoes or boots with any kind of metal cleats or heels, remove them at once.
• Don’t hold any type of metal object, and certainly not a golf club. Even the metal in an umbrella can attract the lightning. Get wet instead.
• If you are caught in an open field or on a golf course, crouch immediately, but do not lie down.
• It is dangerous to be the tallest object in an open field. The goal is to make yourself the smallest possible target, and minimize your contact with the ground.
• Get away from hilltops and trees, particularly a tree that stands alone.
• If you are in a group in the open, spread out, but stay within sight of one another.
• Never stand under a tree, as lightning can travel right down the trunk and split the tree apart (and you along with it).
• If you are swimming or on the water, get yourself to land right away. Lightning zips through water easily, and if a strike hits the water or the nearby land, it could mean death or severe injury.
• If boating, get off the water as quickly as possible.