"I f you can see it - flee it; if you can hear it - clear it."
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(1) Personal Lightning Safety
(2) Lightning Safety for Campers and Hikers
(3) Lightning Safety for Outdoor Sports Events
(4) Lightning Safety at Swimming Pools
(5) Vehicles and Lightning
(6) Boating-Lightning Protection
(7) Lightning Safety Group Recommendations
(8) Small Shelters and Safety From Lightning
(9) Lightning Injury Facts
(10) Emergent Care of Lightning and Electrical Injuries
(11 Behavioral Consequences of Lightning
and Electrical Injury
(12) Flash to Bang; Lightning Safety for Kids
Pages 2 – 3
Page 6 – 7
Pages 8 - 13
Page 14 - 18
Pages 18 – 20
Pages 21 - 28
Pages 29 – 46
Pages 47 - 59
Pages 60 - 62
PERSONAL LIGHTNING SAFETY TIPS
Teach this safety slogan: "I f you can see it - flee it; if you can hear it - clear it."
1.PLAN in advance your evacuation and safety measures. When you first see lightning or hear
thunder, activate your emergency plan. Now is the time to go to a building or a vehicle. Lightning
often precedes rain, so don't wait for the rain to begin before suspending activities.
2.IF OUTDOORS...Avoid water. Avoid the high ground. Avoid open spaces. Avoid all metal
objects including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors, power tools, etc. Unsafe places
include underneath canopies, small picnic or rain shelters, or near trees. Where possible, find
shelter in a substantial building or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car, truck or a van
with the windows completely shut. If lightning is striking nearby when you are outside, you
A. Crouch down. Put feet together. Place hands over ears to minimize hearing
damage from thunder.
B. Avoid proximity (minimum of 15 ft.) to other people.
3.IF INDOORS... Avoid water. Stay away from doors and windows. Do not use the telephone.
Take off head sets. Turn off, unplug, and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools, &
TV sets. Lightning may strike exterior electric and phone lines, inducing shocks to inside
4.SUSPEND ACTIVITIES for 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder.
5.INJURED PERSONS do not carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely. Apply First
Aid procedures to a lightning victim if you are qualified to do so. Call 911 or send for help
Know Your Emergency Telephone Numbers
LIGHTNING SAFETY FOR CAMPERS AND HIKERS
published in "The Outdoor Network", vol ix, no.2, 1998
by Richard Kithil, President
National Lightning Safety Institute
…treat lightning like a snake: if you see it or hear it take evasive measures…
1.0 Summary. Some unexpected situations present extreme danger - an angry fer-de-lance, a
Class VI rapid, crumbling cornices and rotten rock - these can be perilous events. There is no
defense for lightning's "bolt-out-of-the-blue" occasional strike. But for the most part, lightning
safety is a risk management procedure. Early recognition of the lightning hazard, with an
awareness of defensive options, will provide high levels of safety.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS AND MYTHS.
1. Lightning never strikes twice… it strikes the Empire State Building in NYC some
22-25 times per year !
2. Rubber tires or a foam pad will insulate me from lightning… it takes about
10,000 volts to create a one inch spark. Lightning has millions of volts and easily
can jump 10-20 feet !
3. Lightning rods will protect my ropes course…lightning rods are "preferential
attachment points" for lightning. You do not want to "draw" lightning to any area
with people nearby.
4. We should get off the water when boating, canoeing or sailing…tall trees and
rocky outcrops along shore and on nearby land may be a more dangerous place.
5. A cave is a safe place in a thunderstorm…if it is shallow cave, or an old mine
with metallics nearby, it can be a deadly location during lightning.
2.0 Atmospheric Physics 101. At any one time around the planet, there are 2000 thunderstorms
and 100 lightning strikes to earth per second. The frequency of lightning increases in the lower
latitudes (closer to the equator), and in the higher altitudes (mountainous terrain). In the USA,
central Florida experiences some 10-15 lightning strikes per sq. km./yr. The Rocky Mountain west
has about two thirds this activity. Central Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, and the Latin American
mountain regions can experience two to three times as much lightning as central Florida.
Lightning leaders from thunderclouds proceed in steps of tens of meters, electrifying ground-based
objects as they approach the earth. Ground-based objects may launch lightning streamers to meet
these leaders. Streamers may be heard (some say they "sound like bacon frying") and seen (we
may notice our hair standing on end). A connecting leader-streamer results in a closed circuit
cloud-to-ground lightning flash. Thunder accompanying it is the acoustic shock wave from the
electrical discharge. Thus, thunder and lightning are associated with one another.
3.0 Flash/Bang. We all possess a first-class lightning detection device, built into our heads as
standard equipment. By referencing the time in seconds from seeing the lightning (the FLASH, or
"F" ) to hearing the accompanying thunder (the BANG, or "B"), we can range lightning's distance.
A "F" to "B" of five seconds equals lightning distance being one mile away. A "F" to "B" of ten =
two miles; a "F" to "B" of twenty = four miles; a "F" to "B" of thirty = six miles; etc.
New information shows successive, sequential lightning strikes (distances from Strike 1 to Strike
2 to Strike 3) can be some 6-8 miles apart. Taking immediate defensive actions is recommended
when lightning is indicated within 6-8 miles. The next strike could be close enough to be an
immediate and severe threat.
Lightning is a capricious and random event. It cannot be predicted with any accuracy. It cannot be
prevented. Advanced planning in the form of a risk management program is the best defense for
4.0 Standard lightning defenses. The eco-tourism environment is different from situations where
substantial buildings or fully enclosed metal vehicles are the recommended shelters. Lightning in
remote terrain creates dangerous conditions. Follow these guidelines:
LIGHTNING SAFETY TIPS.
AVOID: Avoid water. Avoid all metallic objects. Avoid the high ground. Avoid
solitary tall trees. Avoid close contact with others - spread out 15-20 ft. apart.
Avoid contact with dissimilar objects (water & land; boat & land; rock & ground;
tree & ground). Avoid open spaces.
SEEK: Seek clumps of shrubs or trees of uniform height. Seek ditches, trenches or
the low ground. Seek a low, crouching position with feet together with hands on
ears to minimize acoujstic shock from thunder.
KEEP: Keep a high level of safety awareness for thirty minutes after the last
observed lightning or thunder.
5.0 Medical treatment and symptoms. Treat the apparently dead first.
Immediately administer CPR to restore breathing. Eighty percent of lightning strike
victims survive the shock. Lightning strike victims do not retain an electric charge
and are safe to handle. Common lightning aftereffects include impaired eyesight
and loss of hearing. Electrical burns should be treated as other burns.
LIGHTNING SAFETY FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS EVENTS
Practice and training increase recreation performance. Similarly, preparedness can reduce
the risk of the lightning hazard. Lightning is the most frequent weather hazard impacting
athletics events. Baseball, football, lacrosse, skiing, swimming, soccer, tennis, track and
field events...all these and other outdoor sports have been visited by lightning.
Education is the single most important means to achieve lightning safety. A lightning safety
program should be implemented at every facility. The following steps are suggested:
1. A responsible person should be designated to monitor weather conditions. Local
weather forecasts - from The Weather Channel, NOAA Weather Radio, or local TV stations
- should be observed 24 hours prior to athletic events. An inexpensive portable weather
radio is recommended for obtaining timely storm data.
2. Suspension and resumption of athletic activities should be planned in advance.
Understanding of SAFE shelters is essential. SAFE evacuation sites include:
a. Fully enclosed metal vehicles with windows up.
b. Substantial buildings.
c. The low ground. Seek cover in clumps of bushes.
3. UNSAFE SHELTER AREAS include all outdoor metal objects like flag poles, fences and
gates, high mast light poles, metal bleachers, golf cars, machinery, etc. AVOID trees.
AVOID water. AVOID open fields. AVOID the high ground.
4. Lightning's distance from you is easy to calculate: if you hear thunder, it and the
associated lightning are within auditory range…about 6-8 miles away. The distance from
Strike A to Strike B also can be 6-8 miles. Ask yourself why you should NOT go to shelter
immediately. Of course, different distances to shelter will determine different times to
suspend activities. A good lightning safety motto is:
If you can see it (lightning) flee it; if you can hear it (thunder), clear it.
5. If you feel your hair standing on end, and/or hear "crackling noises" - you are in
lightning's electric field. If caught outside during close-in lightning, immediately remove
metal objects (including baseball cap), place your feet together, duck your head, and
crouch down low in baseball catcher's stance with hands on knees.
6. Wait a minimum of 30 minutes from the last observed lightning or thunder before
7. People who have been struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge and are safe
to handle. Apply first aid immediately if you are qualified to do so. Get emergency help