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How to Protect Yourself In the Outdoors During Lightning Strikes

Written by Shane Jones, Community Blogger | Sep 3, 2013 11:24 AM

Lightning Storm.jpg

Even though summer has ended, enjoying the outdoors is one of the best ways to spend your free time. Whatever your outdoor adventure of choice may be, getting caught in a lightning storm while outside is both highly unpleasant and dangerous. Here’s how to keep safe when nature rains on your parade, literally.

1.  Be Prepared

The best way to avoid getting caught in a storm is to do your research before you head outdoors. Check the weather for you outdoor destination online, with a weather app or with the television or newspaper.

 

2.  Get Indoors

If a thundershower unexpectedly interrupts your picnic, move it inside. Being in a building is the safest place during a thunderstorm. If you’re not near a building wait the storm out in your car. Keep in mind that open shelters (pavilions, dugouts, canopies etc.) and tents are not an appropriate shelter. However, be sure to wait 30 minutes after the storm has passed to go back outside.

The 30/30 rule

Not sure if you need to head indoors? Refer to the 30/30 rule, which states that if the time between thunder and lightning is less than 30 seconds, it is time to go inside.

3.  Staying Safer if you’re stuck outside

Although being outdoors during a lightning storm is not safe, there are some “do’s and don’ts” to make you more protected.

Do:

  • Find the best landscapeMove to a tree-heavy area or forest and stay relatively low. Riding out the storm in a valley, canyon or inside a cave offer more protection as well.
  • Get low: Try to be the lowest object around you when you’re outside. The best body position to get in is a low crouch, hugging your body in to your knees. Though it could lead to slight discomfort and unattractiveness, it keeps you low and makes sure that your heart, lungs and brain aren’t directly on the ground.

Don’t:

  • Hug a tree: Stay away from tall or isolated trees, as lightning commonly strikes both, and please do not hug one for safety.
  • Seek shelter near conductors: Conductors of electricity are highly dangerous during a storm. Avoid any electrical fences, wires or poles or industrial machinery. Water is also a conductor, so stay away.  You can learn alot about these conductors from the your government brochures.  Here's one by Minnesota on their electrical equipment checklist.  
  • Stay in the water:  As romantic as it looks in The Notebook, staying on or in a body of water is absolutely unsafe. Row or swim to shore as quickly as possible and seek shelter. If you’re on a boat in the ocean and can’t get to shore, drop anchor and go o in the cabin or get as low as possible.  Stay away from buildings that require any form of drain repair, as wetness can be extremely dangerous for your well-being. 
  • Don’t seek shelter here:  At all costs, avoid waiting out a storm in
    • an open field
    • Near a mountain peak or ridge
    • at the mouth of a cave

As cool as it may look lightning is highly dangerous, striking roughly 400 Americans and killing approximately 40 strike-victims annually. To make sure you’re safe when lightning strikes, try to get inside if possible, and check the weather before venturing outside.

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