When thunder roars, go indoors

Posted on Jun 21 2018 in Safety

Lightning safety begins when you hear the rumble of the thunder in an impending storm. Growing up, your parents might have told you to count the seconds between the thunder and a strike of lightning to know how far away the storm was.

“One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand…”

But, did you know that if your count was under 30 seconds, the storm is within six miles, putting you and others around you in danger? Indiana Electric Cooperatives wants to ensure you understand the dangers of lightning and how to avoid the risk of death or injury.

“Everyone outside should seek shelter whenever they first see a flash of lightning or feel a rumble of thunder. Both are cues the storm is close enough for lightning to strike,” said Tom VanParis, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives.

Your cooperative hopes that during storms, you are able to find shelter indoors. But if that is not possible, reduce the risk of being struck by lightning by following these safety rules. 

  • Water and electricity do not mix. If you are caught in a storm while at a pond, lake or pool, get out and away from the water as soon as you hear thunder. 
  • If you are hiking on a hillside and hear thunder, attempt to move to lower ground because lightning bolts will seek out high points on the surface. This also means you do not want to sit under a tree to stay dry. Never seek shelter in a cave or rocky overhang and do not lay flat on the ground. 
  • Lastly, place any metal or electrical objects away from you. These include cell phones, GPS units, watches, knives, walking poles, etc. 

If you are already indoors or have been able to find shelter during a storm, take these precautions to avoid lightning’s dangers:

  • While it might be tempting to watch the storm from the safety of your home, stay away from windows and doors. 
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls, like those found in a basement or garage. Lightning can travel through the metal wires in concrete walls and flooring. 
  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment. 
  • Since water and electricity do not mix, avoid plumbing and water. Do not bathe or do laundry. 

Following these lightning safety tips can help reduce the risks of danger for you and those around you, but if someone is struck by lightning, he or she may need immediate medical attention. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to touch. Call 911 immediately and start CPR if needed.

Lightning: Myth vs. Fact

MYTH: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

FACT: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it is a tall, pointy or isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit an average of 23 times a year.

MYTH: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch him or her, you will be electrocuted.

FACT: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to administer first aid. This is the most chilling of lightning myths. Imagine if someone died because people were afraid to give CPR!

MYTH: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.

FACT: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, keep moving toward a safe shelter.

MYTH: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.

FACT: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties. Better to get wet than fried!