In the United States, an average of 55 people are killed each year by lightning. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, lightning is to blame for five to six billion dollars worth of insured property damage per year. It is impossible to prevent lightning, but the following steps can be taken to lessen your chances of injury.

If a thunderstorm is imminent, postpone outdoor activities. Find shelter in a home, building or hardtop automobile. You can be injured if lightning strikes your car, but it is still safer than remaining outdoors. Use a battery-operated NOAA weather radio for updates from local officials.

Protect computer equipment by disconnecting all equipment from the power and telephone lines before a lightning storm hits. Many people rely on surge protectors, but surge protectors cannot protect against all surges and, in many cases, they cannot protect the computer’s modem.

While indoors, avoid showering or bathing, as plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity. Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use. Turn off air conditioners.

If outdoors, avoid the following:

  • Natural lightning rods, such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area
  • Hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the water
  • Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas
  • Anything metal, such as lawn mowers, motorcycles, golf clubs and bicycles

After a Storm

Property damage caused by lightning, including damage caused to electrical appliances and wiring, is covered under the property insurance program. If you have a lightning strike that causes damage, immediately contact the Office of Risk Management.

Facts About Lightning

The unpredictability of lightning increases the risk to individuals and property.

Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.

"Heat lightning" is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction!

Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.

Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be one in 600,000, but could be reduced even further by following safety precautions.

Lightning-strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.