Lightning Safety 

You’ve likely heard the adage “When thunder roars, go indoors!” But why is this adage so important to listen to? According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) Each year lightning kills two to three Canadians and injures approximately 180 others. When you can hear thunder, you're within striking distance of lightning. 

Jenny Hagan a severe weather chaser who has covered severe weather across the Canadian prairies for 14 years states “out of all the dangers associated with severe storms, lightning, not tornados and hail, is one of the most terrifying dangers” This is because lightning is highly unpredictable. You have no idea when or where it will strike, and it can often strike miles away from the thunderstorm itself. 

So, what can you do to keep yourself safe from such an unpredictable danger? 

  • When you hear thunder take shelter. Either indoors or in an all-metal automobile 

  • If caught outdoors stay away from tall objects, fences or wire and find a low laying area to take shelter 

  • If on a boat, make it to shore if possible. If the boat has a cabin that is the safest spot. Stay in shelter for at least 30 minutes after the last crack of thunder

There are additional precautions to take to ensure your safety according to ECCC 

If caught outdoors: 

  • Avoid being the highest point in an open area. Seek shelter in low-lying areas such as valleys, ditches and depressions but be aware of flooding. 

  • Stay away from water. Don't go boating or swimming if a storm threatens and get to land as quickly as possible if you are already on the water. Lightning can strike the water and travel a substantial distance from its point of contact. 

  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity, such as tractors, golf carts, golf clubs, metal fences, motorcycles, lawnmowers and bicycles. 

  • Avoid being the highest point in an open area. Swinging a golf club or holding an umbrella or fishing rod can make you the tallest object and a target for lightning. 

  • You are safe inside a car during lightning but be aware of downed power lines which may be touching your car. You are safe inside the car, but you may receive a shock if you step outside. 

  • In a forest, seek shelter in a low-lying area under a thick growth of small trees or bushes. 

  • Keep alert for flash floods, sometimes caused by heavy rainfall, if seeking shelter in a ditch or low-lying area. 

Indoor Precautions: 

  • Before the storm hits, disconnect electrical appliances including computers, radios and television sets. Do not touch them during the storm. 

  • Don't go outside unless necessary. 

  • Keep as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Stay away from windows. 

  • Use battery operated or cordless devices only. The electrical current from the lightning strike will travel through wires and cords using the path of least resistance. Electrical current will follow metal pipes and wires until it reaches the ground (or you, if you are connected through them). 

  • Working on a plugged-in computer or holding a phone or other devices when they're charging are unsafe practices that should be avoided during lightning storms. Cordless telephones are safe; however, you could hear a very loud noise on the phone. This would be consistent with your house or somewhere nearby being struck by lightning. 

  • Delay taking a shower, doing laundry, or washing the dishes by hand during a thunderstorm because water is an electrical conductor. If lightning strikes your house or nearby, the lightning charge may travel through the pipes, and you could be hurt. 

If you or someone you know is struck by lightning it is important to seek medical attention right away. Lightning strikes, like any electrical shock, can cause irregular heart rhythms that can be fatal if not treated. It is safe to touch a person following a lightning strike. The human body does not hold an electrical charge. Victims may suffer from burns and shock. In serious cases the victim can quit breathing and have their heart stop. In these cases, CPR will need to be administered