What do I do in a lightning storm?

Lightning strikes the ground in Britain about 300,000 times a year. For the climber, angler, walker, golfer, and other people out-of-doors, this is a risk that must be considered. Although there is no absolute protection from lightning, measures can be taken to reduce the risk of getting struck and the severity of the injury.

Between 30 and 60 people are struck by lightning each year in Britain, and on average, three of these strikes are fatal. Research has shown that being close to water increases the risk of being struck by lightning. It is most dangerous when there is underestimation of the likelihood of being hit, for example before the storm or when you think it is over.

There are three different ways of being struck by lightning: direct strike - the lightning hits you and goes to earth through you; side flash - the lightning hits another object and jumps sideways to hit you; ground strike - the lightning strikes the ground then travels through it, hitting you on the way.

Ideally, seek shelter inside a large building or a motor vehicle, keeping away from wide, open spaces and exposed hilltops.  If you have nowhere to shelter, make yourself as small a target as possible by crouching down with your feet together, hands on knees and your head tucked in. Do not shelter beneath tall or isolated trees - it has been estimated that one in four people struck by lightning are seeking refuge under trees. If you are on water, get to the shore and off beaches as quickly as possible as water will transmit strikes from further away.

Before you set off for the day, check the weather forecast. If storms are predicted, think about doing something less exposed, or being somewhere that provides appropriate shelter nearby. Be aware of objects that can conduct or attract lightning, such as golf clubs, umbrellas, motorbikes, bicycles, wire fencing and rails. Seek shelter quickly if your hair begins to stand on end and nearby appliances begin buzzing - it may mean lightning is about to strike.

Inside a house, lightning can be conducted through television aerials, piping or other wires. Except in cases of emergency, don’t use your telephone (landline or mobile) until the storm is over.

Date Updated/Created: 09/09/2010

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