National Lightning Safety Awareness Week was started in 2001 to call attention to this underrated killer. Since then, U.S. lightning fatalities have dropped from about 50 per year to about 30. This reduction in fatalities is largely due to greater awareness of the lightning danger, and people seeking safety when thunderstorms threaten. During National Lightning Safety Awareness Week (June 24-30), we encourage you to learn more about lightning and lightning safety.
There are two main types of lighting:
- Intra-cloud lightning is an electrical discharge between oppositely charged areas within the thunderstorm cloud.
- Cloud-to-ground lightning is a discharge between opposite charges in the cloud and on the ground. Cloud-to-ground lightning can either occur between negative charges in the cloud and positive charges on the ground (a negative flash) or between positive charges in the cloud and negative charges on the ground (a positive flash).
You can protect yourself from risk even if you are caught outdoors when lightning is close by.
Safety precautions outdoors
- If the weather forecast calls for thunderstorms, postpone your trip or activity.
- Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors. Find a safe, enclosed shelter.
- The main lightning safety guide is the 30-30 rule. After you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
- If no shelter is available, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground as possible. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly over 100 feet away.
- Stay away from concrete floors or walls. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.
Although you should move into a non-concrete structure if possible, being indoors does not automatically protect you from lightning. In fact, about one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors.
Safety precautions indoors
- Avoid water during a thunderstorm. Lightning can travel through plumbing.
- Avoid electronic equipment of all types. Lightning can travel through electrical systems and radio and television reception systems.
- Avoid corded phones. However, cordless or cellular phones are safe to use during a storm.
- Avoid concrete floors and walls.
For additional lightning safety tips, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.