Stay alert

As thunder or lightning approaches:

  • Monitor local weather conditions with an AM/FM or dedicated weather radio.
  • Recognize the signs of an oncoming thunder and lightning storm: towering clouds with a cauliflower shape, dark skies and distant rumbles of thunder or flashes of lightning.
  • Do not wait for lightning to strike nearby before taking cover. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from the area where it is raining. That's about the distance you can hear thunder. When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is within six miles of you, and it’s dangerous!

Seek shelter

  • Look for a large, enclosed building. That's the best choice.
  • If you are in a car and it has a hard top, stay inside and keep the windows rolled up.
  • If you are swimming, fishing or boating and there are clouds, dark skies and distant rumbles of thunder or flashes of lightning, get to shore immediately and seek shelter.
  • Avoid small sheds and lean-tos or partial shelters, like pavilions.
  • Stay at least a few feet away from open windows, sinks, toilets, tubs, showers, electric boxes and outlets, and appliances. Lightning can flow through them and "jump" to a person.
  • Do not shower or take a bath during a thunder or lightning storm.
  • Avoid using regular, land-line telephones, except in an emergency. If lightning hits the telephone lines, it could flow to the phone. Because they are not connected directly to the building's wiring, cell or cordless phones are safe to use.
  • Insofar as possible, unplug appliances and electronic equipment, including antenna connections.

If you are caught outside

If you are unable to reach a safe building or car:

  • If your skin tingles or your hair stands on the end, a lightning strike may be about to happen. Crouch down on the balls of your feet with your feet close together. Keep your hands on your knees and lower your head. Get as low as possible without touching your hands or knees to the ground. DO NOT LIE DOWN!
  • If you are in a boat and cannot get to shore, crouch down in the middle of the boat. Go below if possible.
  • If you are on land, find a low spot away from trees, metal fences, pipes, tall or long objects.
  • If you are in the woods, look for an area of shorter trees. Crouch down away from tree trunks.

Help victims

There is no danger to anyone helping a person who has been struck by lightning — no electric charge remains. So, lightning victims are safe to touch and need urgent medical attention. Get emergency medical help as soon as possible. Call 911. If more than one person is struck by lightning, treat persons who are unconscious first. They are at greatest risk of cardiac arrest.

  • A person struck by lightning may appear dead, with no pulse or breath. Prompt, proper first aid could save their lives.
  • If the person is unresponsive or not breathing, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately.
  • Consider an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), if one is available

Treat those who are injured but conscious next. Common injuries from being struck by lightning are burns, wounds and broken bones. Loss of hearing or eyesight and other nervous system damage may also be expected.

For more information on lightning, see: