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Caught Outdoors: Lightning Safety Tips

Protect yourself from lightning strikes when you’re caught outside during a storm.

When thunder roars, go indoors. This rhyme educates people about lightning safety, but sometimes an indoor shelter isn’t an option. Although no place outside is risk-free during a storm, some areas are safer than others.

When You’re on the Water
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), 64% of the overall deaths from lightning took place during leisure activities and 37 percent of those were water-related. When lightning strikes water it travels along the surface in all directions and can injure or kill anybody touching the water. Get to land as soon as you see a storm approaching and follow the basic guidelines of thunderstorm safety.

When You’re in an Open Field
The tallest thing around attracts lightning, so crouch down in a ball-like position on the balls of your feet. Tuck your head down and cover your ears. Electric currents can travel over the ground for more than 100 feet, so minimize your contact with the ground and never lie flat.

When You’re Near Your Vehicle
If your hard-top vehicle is nearby, seek shelter in it and roll up the windows. Stay inside until 30 minutes after the final crack of thunder. Don’t take shelter in a soft-top vehicle, such as a convertible or Jeep.

When You’re in a Forest
Find a group of smaller trees surrounded by taller ones. Tall trees attract lightning, leaving the smaller clump protected. If possible, seek shelter in a low area such as a valley or ravine.

When You’re at a Sporting Event
The NWS identifies attendance at sporting events as the second leading cause of lightning fatalities. An entire group can be injured if lightning strikes the ground, so it’s a good idea to try to separate from others. You’ll want to avoid partially enclosed structures such as tents, gazebos and dugouts, as well as tall objects and concrete structures.

No Matter Where You Are …
Regardless of where you find yourself outside, keep in mind that tall, isolated and pointy objects attract lightning strikes. If you’re near one of these, move away.

Be Proactive About Lightning Storms
While these tips may lower your chances of being injured or killed, your safest option is always to be indoors. Reduce the likelihood of being caught outside during a storm by planning ahead. If you hold an outdoor event, secure a backup location so you can move indoors at the first sign of a storm. Or check the forecast periodically to stay ahead of the weather.

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