Lightning is dangerous and unpredictable, but the consequences of being struck by lightning are predictable. Since 1959, there have been 140 lightning-related deaths in Pennsylvania. The most recent was in April 2023.
Across the U.S., statistics show most deaths occur outdoors. Common Pennsylvania summer activities like fishing, camping, farming, and boating are where the most people have been struck and killed. So, how can we stay safe?
First, remember: When thunderstorms are in the area, NO PLACE OUTSIDE IS SAFE.
Five Ways You Can Be Struck by Lightning
- Direct – The strike current travels through the body.
- Side Flash – The strike hits a taller object and jumps to the victim, sending current through the body.
- Ground Current – Current from a nearby strike travels through the ground into the body.
- Conduction – Lightning strikes a metal object and the current travels through the metal to the victim.
- Streamers – Alternate pathways for the main strike can carry the current to the body (rare).
Lightning threatens your safety by causing fires or trees and branches exploding or falling.
Staying Safe from Lightning
- When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! At the first rumble of thunder, head to shelter and stay inside for 30 minutes after the last rumble.
- Being outside during a thunderstorm is your greatest risk. Seek shelter in an enclosed, permanent building or a metal-topped vehicle.
- Bring pets inside.
- Avoid water and corded electronic activities during the storm, as they can carry electricity.
- Before a storm, purchase power strips with lightning arresters and surge protection. For the utmost safety, simply unplug appliances.
- Consider installing lightning rods on your property.
Tips if Stuck Outside
- Find a sturdy shelter indoors, but if you have no options do the following:
- Avoid elevations such as hills, ridges, peaks and wide-open areas.
- Do not lie flat on the ground.
- Stay away from tall objects, including isolated trees, power poles or radio towers.
- Avoid water, including pools, rivers, lakes and ponds.
Helping a Lightning Strike Victim
Lightning strike victims are safe to touch, and do not carry an electrical charge. Render care immediately.
Ensure you and the victim are both in a safe place, preferably indoors. Call 911. Immediately begin CPR, and use an AED if the person is unresponsive or not breathing. If using an AED, make sure you and the victim are not in a pool of water; the charge from the AED shock can be carried through the water to the rescuer.
More lightning tips and safety resources crom the National Weather Service.