Surviving a Lightning Strike Outdoors

Getting stuck outside during a lightning storm can be very dangerous. Head for shelter at the first sign of thunder or lightning, do not wait for the storm to get closer to take cover. Lightning can travel far and wide. If you can hear thunder, you are within the lightning's striking distance. When you see lightning pause and count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. Divide the number of seconds by 5, this will tell you how many miles away the lightning is.

Count 30 seconds, divide by 5, equals 6 miles away. If it is less than 6 miles away, get to shelter straight away! 

Follow these guidelines if you are caught outside during a storm and can't get to shelter.

  • Move to a lower elevation. Lightning is more likely to strike objects at higher elevations.
  • Stay out of large open spaces such as a field or clearing where you are the tallest object. The lighting will use you as the fastest path to the ground.
  • Avoid isolated objects like trees or light posts.
  • Steer clear of anything metal, picnic shelters or bleachers, as it is likely to attack lightning.
  • Move away from unprotected vehicles such as golf carts or convertibles.
  • Get out of the water as quickly as possible. Stay clear of the water as it is an excellent conductor.
  • If you are in a group spread out. There should be 50 to 100 feet between each person. Do a headcount each time lightning touches down to ensure no one has been injured.
  • Many hiking backpacks have a metal frame. Remove these immediately. Leave them at least 100 feet from where you are taking cover.
  • Wear rubber boots. Rubber is a poor conductor and should provide some protection from lightning.

The Lightning Crouch 

  • Squat down with only the balls of your feet touching the ground. Your feet should be touching. This will allow the current to pass through in one foot and out the other without passing through your whole body.
  • Get as close to the ground as possible. Do not lay down.
  • Tuck your head to your chest.
  • Cover your ears and close your eyes. This will provide some protection from the loud thunderclap and bright flash from the lightning.
  • Don't touch any conductors, such as a metal hiking pole.
  • Watch for signs of lightning. If your hair starts to stand or end or skin starts to tingle crouch right away! 



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