How to Survive a Lightning Strike

Lightning strikes kill about 24, 000 people worldwide each year, and about 24, 000 people are injured by lightning and survive with long-term effects. There is no safe place outdoors, especially if youโ€™re in a remote area to hike or camp since emergency rescuers may not reach you in an instant.

In the event of a thunderstorm, what should you do to avoid getting struck by lightning? Should you be worried? Read on to find out more about surviving a lightning strike.

Why Many People Survive Being Struck by Lightning

In pop culture, getting hit by lightning is bad luck. Itโ€™s deemed worse than rain, snow, and hail as it strikes a specific area, appearing to have a choice. Thatโ€™s why when it hits a person, it makes them wonder, why me?

However, despite the horror, so many people live through being zapped by a bolt of electricity, although it doesnโ€™t mean that itโ€™s not dangerous or has no long-term effects. In fact, 90% of those who get hit are survivors. Here are some reasons why:

  • Direct strikes are rare. DIrect strikes only make up a small portion of all lightning strikes. The vast majority of death that involved lightning strikes are caused by ground current, where lightning hits a distance away and then travels through the ground in all directions. Sometimes, it hits a taller object near a person and part of the current jumps from the thing to the person.
  • CPR can save. This is why you need to learn how to do it, especially when help is not yet around. The heart is the most threatened part of the body when one gets hit by a lightning strike. When the jolt enters the body, the heart automatically stops and they go in cardiac arrest. So part of the key to survival is the administration of CPR
  • Your body cuts off most of the current. Lightning is far different from other types of electric current systems, meaning it hits your body in a different way from when you, say, stick your finger in a socket. Only your skin is getting passed over by most of the lightning current through a phenomenon called a โ€œflashoverโ€. Itโ€™s like pointing a fire hose at the bucket, where only a small amount of water will get in and the majority splashes out. That said, lightning strikes usually only cause burns.

How to Survive Being Struck by Lightning

Here are some tips for staying safe and alive during a thunderstorm, especially when youโ€™re outdoors.

Keep an Eye on the Sky

They say that the best way to survive a lightning strike is to avoid the lightning strike. To know whether or not you want to continue an outdoor trip, follow the 30/30 rule. If, after seeing lightning, you can’t count to 30 before hearing thunder, stay indoors.

Check the weather forecast too. In most regions of the United States, thunderstorms occur during the evening and afternoon, so start your expedition in the morning and finish by noon if the forecast states the weather wonโ€™t be good.

Form a Safety Plan

Before going out, check maps to locate visitors centers, campground buildings, or rest areas. Always lookout for the nearest shelters when you hike or paddle. If you have no shelter to stay in, go in your metal-topped vehicle as it is much safer to stay there. In fact, itโ€™s a better option than staying in a tent when a storm comes.

Are you sure you know the location of the closest refuge? How long will it take you to reach it if a storm arises? Donโ€™t forget to practice your safety plan immediately when you hear a clap of thunder, see a flash of lightning, or even sense a storm approaching.

Donโ€™t be the Tallest Object and Donโ€™t Go Near the Tallest Object

Lightning strikes the tallest object in an area, like a tree, a mountain, or you. If youโ€™re climbing and a storm is coming, come down quickly to find shelter without touching any metals. If youโ€™re on the water, get to the shore fast. When thereโ€™s no place to take cover, crouch on the balls of your feet to lessen your contact with the ground, with your head down and hands over your ears.

Also, avoid a side splash by never huddling under a tall tree. If you are stuck in the forest, stay in smaller trees or find a dry ravine and crouch down. Remember not to lie flat as it increases your contact with a potential ground current.

Know the Stormโ€™s Distance

Count the seconds between the flash and the ensuing rumble of thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five and youโ€™ll get the number of miles between you and the storm. To find the kilometers, divide by three.

If the number of seconds is 30 or fewer, equaling six miles or 10 kilometers, find shelter immediately.

Spread Out from Your Group

If youโ€™re in a group, stagger your positions to avoid traveling in a tight company. So if lightning strikes a specific area, fewer people will get shocked. Those unaffected, in turn, can help the injured.

Wait 30 Minutes to Evacuate

Storms last from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, so even if youโ€™re caught early, you still need t wait for it to calm for the sake of your safety. We even recommend staying put at least 30 minutes after the lightning has subsided.

Better Safe than Sorry

A typical lightning flash contains about 300 million volts of electricity, or enough power to light a 100-watt compact fluorescent bulb for a year. The most important tip to surviving lightning strikes is to avoid it. Itโ€™s alright to cancel your fishing adventure, your hiking trip, or kayaking instead of going out and be unlucky enough to be struck.

Just because it is rare does not mean it is impossible to happen. And just because only 10% get killed by lightning strikes does not mean the survivors donโ€™t suffer permanent effects. Avoid getting struck by lightning and learn how to render assistance in case it happens to someone youโ€™re with.

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1 Comment

  • Then there was the story of the guy on a beach, nice sunny day, when out of the blue he was hit by lightning from a storm that was more than 5 miles away. So yeah, shit happens, just be aware of your surroundings, even on a motorcycle too.

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