Your chances of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 600,000. But that doesn’t mean you want to take that chance — especially with summer thunderstorms making headlines these past few weeks.
When confronting the awesome power of nature’s tempests, knowing what to do can literally be a lifesaver. To avoid coming face-to-face with a lightning bolt and its million volts of electricity, here’s what you need to know.
1. Your (hardtop) car is the second safest place to be
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true. If you can’t make it indoors, seek shelter inside an enclosed vehicle.
During a lightning storm, your car is protected — but not because rubber tires insulate it (that’s a myth). Rather, it’s because the metal acts as a conductor, channeling the energy around the surface of the vehicle into the ground.
If you’re waiting out the storm in your ride, pull over to the side of the road, unbuckle your seat belt, turn off the engine, and avoid touching the steering wheel, door handle, gears — anything with metal — until the storm passes.
2. Don’t handle any electrical equipment or power cords
Lightning can travel long distances through electrical wires and enter your home. To avoid an electrical surge, unplug your electronics (TV, computer, microwave, etc.) if you know a storm is coming.
While corded phones are going the way of the dodo in most households, if you have one, don’t use it a storm. Believe it or not, talking on a landline is the leading cause of indoor lightning injury in the U.S.
3. Postpone showering if a storm is raging around you
Just as lightning can travel through your home’s electrical wires, it can also run through your plumbing system.
So if there’s an electrical charge and you turn on your shower, you could bathe in a million volts of electricity. (Ouch!)
4. Don’t lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls
Since concrete is generally reinforced with steel, it can conduct electricity. Avoid direct contact with concrete if a storm is raging near you.
5. Seek shelter immediately if you can feel your hair stand on end
Thunderstorms can be hair-raising — literally.
In fact, if you’re outside and you can feel your hair rise, there’s a good chance that lightning is about to strike (positive charges are rising through you, reaching for the negative charge of the lightning bolt). If this happens, seek safe shelter ASAP.
If there’s nothing around, squat low to the ground on your toes, cover your ears, and tuck your head between your knees. Your goal is to be the lowest thing around and minimize contact with the ground.
6. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after the last thunderclap
The storm blasted through. Now, the sky’s blue and the sun is shining. All’s quiet on the western front, right?
Well, not quite. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from rainfall, which means you should wait awhile before heading outside.
Thunderstorm survival in a nutshell
If there’s one thing you need to know about avoiding danger, it’s this: if you hear thunder, then get indoors as soon as you can.
Of course, if the thunderstorm should happen to damage your car, home, or apartment, you’ll be glad to know that your auto, homeowners, or renters policy can step in to help. Get a quote today.