Your Life

When Lightning Strikes: Tips for Staying Safe in a Storm


There is something nostalgic about a summer storm. The combination of gentle rain and low rumbles of thunder draws people to their porches for a better view. If it’s a lighter storm, most outdoor activities continue — fishermen hoping for a good bite, a couple walking on the beach, or a group of teenagers at soccer practice. No one suspects that they are in danger. However, all thunderstorms produce lightning, and each flash is a potential killer.

Few people realize or understand the dangers of being outside during a thunderstorm. Even those who do may worry about seeming overly cautious and end up waiting to stop an activity until it’s too late.

Outdoor activities should be stopped:

  • If you see lightning.
  • If you hear thunder.
  • If the skies look threatening.

You should wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before resuming outdoor activities.

Did You Know:

  • Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the area where it is raining.
  • Lightning can reach temperatures around 50,000.
  • Lightning is one of the least commonly understood weather phenomena. Visit this site to learn more about the science behind it.

National Lightning Safety Awareness week was started in 2001 to spread awareness of this unpredictable killer and to educate people on lightning safety. Lightning fatalities in the U.S. have decreased from around 50 per year to 30 per year since its creation.

Lightning Safety Outside:

No place outside is safe when a thunderstorm is in the area. You should get inside as soon as you hear thunder. If you absolutely cannot get to safety, there are a few things you can do to lessen the threat of being struck:

  • Avoid open areas and the top of hills or ridges.
  • Stay away from isolated trees, towers, or utility poles. Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an area.
  • If you are in a forest, stay by a lower stand of trees.
  • If you are in a group, spread out to avoid multiple people being hit. The electrical current can travel between group members.
  • If you are camping, set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low area. Remember, tents offer NO protection from lightning.
  • Stay away from water and metal objects, including fences. Water and metal do not attract lightning, but they are great conductors of electricity.

Safe structures include buildings that have electricity and plumbing or a metal-topped vehicle with closed windows. Small outdoor buildings including dugouts, rain shelters, and sheds are NOT safe.

Lightning Safety Inside:

There are steps you should take inside to stay safe as well, as lightning can enter a home and travel through wiring systems:

  • Stay off corded phones (cellular and cordless phones are ok).
  • Stay away from electrical equipment and plumbing.
  • Stay away from doors and windows.
  • Stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on garage floors or other concrete surfaces.
  • Protect your pets. Dog houses are not safe shelters from a lightning strike, and dogs that are chained to trees or on metal runners are especially vulnerable.

Following these safety tips may save a life. To learn more, including what to do if someone is struck, visit the National Lightning Safety Council website. And always remember, “When thunder roars, go indoors!”


Leavitt Group—national strength, local trust. Leavitt Group is the 14th largest independently held insurance brokerage in the United States. We pride ourselves on our experience and ability to help our clients succeed. Contact an agency near you