We live in the “Lightning Capital” of the world — and far too many injuries occur simply because people don’t understand the danger. For example, a motorcyclist was recently killed by a lightning strike while driving on Interstate 95. House and apartment fires following lightning strikes have also been on the news.
Many of us — myself included — grew up believing that you could stay safe in an electrical storm by hiding under a tree. We also thought that it was safe to sit out storms in a car because the car’s rubber tires would ground out the lightning. Well, we were wrong! Here are the facts about lightning safety:
- Running under a tree is never safe in an electrical storm. The tree is a potential target and the roots under your feet will carry the electricity from a strike to your body.
- Staying in your car is moderately safer only because the metal can disperse the energy from a lightning strike.
- The safest place to be during an electrical storm is indoors — so try to find a temporary shelter if you’re out when a storm kicks up.
Here are some tips for managing the situation — wherever you may be.
When you see a storm:
Part of staying safe is recognizing your danger.
- Don’t delay the decision to take shelter. Lightning can strike a half hour before the storm.
- If you’re outside, look for shelter. If no shelter is readily available, move away from metal surfaces like exposed construction, heavy equipment and metal fences.
- Move away from other conductors of electricity, like ponds, trees, power poles and concrete bridges (which have steel beams inside).
- Do not lay flat on the ground, but crouch down in a low spot.
If you’re able to get indoors:
- Stay away from windows during the storm. Lightning can pass through glass.
- Stay off your phone and away from other sources of electricity.
- Stay away from faucets and do not take a bath or shower until the storm passes.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after the storm to venture back out.
Many times, construction workers are encouraged to keep working until the last possible minute during a storm — which can put their lives at risk from lightning. If you were injured on the job due to a lightning strike, you need to find out more about your legal options.