The most important statement for everyone to understand, memorize and to act on is:
No place outside is safe from lightning during thunderstorms.
Plan your activities around the weather to avoid the lightning strike hazard. If you are going to be outside, know the weather forecast beforehand. Know the local weather patterns.
While outside, use the "30-30 Rule" to know when to seek a safer location.
- When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If this time is 30 seconds or less, go to a safer place. If you can't see the lightning, just hearing the thunder is a good back up rule to use to take cover.
- Wait 30 minutes or more after hearing the last thunder before leaving the safer location.
- The "30-30 Rule" will not work well for "first-strike" lightning from locally developing thunderstorms. Watch for brewing convection and seek shelter before the first lightning is produced.
Go to a safer location when required. Don't hesitate; go to a safer place immediately! The safest place commonly available is a large fully enclosed substantially constructed building, such as a typical house. Once inside, stay away from any electrical conducting path from the outside. Examples are corded telephones, electrical appliances, and plumbing. If you can't get to a substantial building, a vehicle with a solid metal roof and metal sides is a reasonable second choice. Avoid contact with conducting paths going outside. Convertibles and open-framed vehicles do not count as lightning shelters.
If you can't get to a safer location, avoid the most dangerous locations and activities. Avoid higher elevations, wide-open areas, tall isolated objects, water-related activities, and open vehicles. Avoid unprotected open structures like picnic pavilions, rain shelters, and bus stops.
Don't go under trees to stay dry during thunderstorms.
Use this as a last resort: If you are outside and far away from a safer place, proceed to the safest location. If lightning is imminent, it will often give a few seconds of warning, such as hair standing up, tingling skin, light metal objects vibrating, seeing corona discharge, and hearing a crackling or "kee-kee" sound. If you are in a group, spread out so there are several body lengths between each person. Once spread out, use the lightning crouch: put your feet together, squat down, tuck your head, and cover your ears.
When the immediate threat of lightning has passed, continue heading to the safest place possible. Remember, this is a desperate last resort; you are much safer following the previous guidance and avoiding this high-risk situation.
The first step in lightning first aid is to call 911. All deaths from lightning are from cardiac arrest or stopped breathing at the time of the strike. CPR or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is the recommended first aid.
No lightning safety guidelines will guarantee 100 percent safety, but these steps will help you avoid the vast majority of lightning casualties.
Lightning is the underrated weather hazard. Fortunately, the vast majority of these casualties can be easily avoided.