How to protect yourself from lightning

How to protect yourself from lightning


We will tell you about a natural danger many people do not take seriously. It is silently waiting in the background, and it doesn’t forgive irresponsibility and carelessness. We are going to talk about lightning striking a person.

Can I really get struck by lightning?

Yes, and there's a better chance than you think. For example, sharks bite about 100 people a year around the world, and that's a very popular scary story. At the same time, lightning strikes 240,000 people! 

Valerya Milovanova /

The map shows how many lightning strikes (not of people, but in general) are recorded yearly in different parts of the planet. Blue and green colors indicate few, and red and black colors show many. You can use this map to estimate how likely it is to catch a thunderstorm somewhere.

A lightning strike is rarely fatal: about 90% of people survive. Nevertheless, it is a huge stress for the body with unforeseen consequences. It's best not to try your luck.

Everyone has heard that lightning strikes at the highest point in the area. This is what happens most of the time, but not always. In fact, lightning can strike anywhere, and there are almost no completely safe places during a thunderstorm.

But there are some simple tips to help you minimize your risk as much as possible.

Home is best

Always check the weather forecast before going outdoors. For example, in The LITE profile is great for daily forecasts. You can assess the risk of thunderstorms using the regular forecast, weather maps and radar. If a thunderstorm is expected, think ahead of time about where, and how quickly, you can take shelter. Maybe the best option is to stay indoors. By the way, if you live in a private house, be sure to equip it with a lightning rod.

However, even in a house with a lightning rod, you are not completely safe. With a close lightning strike, the current can travel through pipes, walls and metal parts of the structure. Therefore:

  • Close windows and doors. Stay away from outside walls, windows, and doors, and ideally off the floor as well;
  • Avoid coming in contact with tap water;
  • Do not use electrical appliances. It is desirable to turn them off in advance, but if you have not had time—it is better not to go near them.

Of course, the chance of being struck by lightning inside an equipped house is very small. But we are just warning you that it is possible. Your ideal position in a lightning storm is reading a book on the couch. You are perfectly safe here.

I’m sorry, but this doesn’t help me! I’m outside!

If there’s a car with a closed roof nearby, it’s almost like a building. Get in it, close all the windows, and don’t touch any metal parts. If lightning strikes the car, the current will travel through the car body and into the ground.

Usually during a thunderstorm, your first thought is to hide from the rain, so you don’t get wet. But many shelters, unlike a house or car, do not protect against lightning. You can’t hide under tall trees, open gazebos, or convertible cars. In general, under anything open, tall and/or metal. It’s worse than nothing. Such shelters attract lightning, and will not save you from electrocution.

So, where should I take cover then?

If you find yourself outdoors in a thunderstorm, and there is no car or building nearby, follow two main rules:

  • Don’t be the highest point in the neighborhood, and don’t hide under tall objects. The lower down you go, the better;
  • Get off the water, or better yet, even off the shore of a body of water. You will probably have to climb a bit for the sake of it, but it will be worth it.

When you find a secluded place in the lower terrain, you can squat down. Then you’ll be as safe as possible.

Mark Olsen / Unsplash 

A woman squatting is the right thing to do. She’s on the beach— that’s wrong.

If you have large metal objects with you (such as a bicycle), it’s best to put them 20 meters away from you. If you are in company, don’t be too close to each other. That way, if lightning strikes one person, the others will be able to call an ambulance.

Being struck by lightning is a very underestimated danger. Many people think it is an extreme rarity that will never happen to them. But we ask you to take thunderstorms seriously, and not to take unnecessary risks. Moreover, other dangerous phenomena are associated with thunderstorms—hail, strong winds, and tornadoes.


Meanwhile, we want to remind our readers that heavy rains and thunderstorms are associated with powerful cumulonimbus clouds.

In our application, there is a parameter called the CAPE index. The higher it is, the more dangerous weather events should be expected.

The CAPE index is measured in J/kg (joules/kilogram) and can provide valuable insights:

  • Less than 0 J/kg indicates a stable state with No Cumulus or Cumulonimbus clouds, heavy rainfall, or thunderstorms.
  • 0-1000 J/kg signifies slight instability, where Cumulus clouds (Cu), Cumulonimbus clouds (Cb), light rainfall, and thunderstorms are possible if there is enough moisture in the air.
  • 1000-2500 J/kg suggests moderate instability with the potential for Cumulonimbus clouds (Cb), heavy rains, and thunderstorms.
  • 2500-3500 J/kg represents high instability, which may lead to thunderstorms, occasionally heavy, along with hail and squalls.
  • Greater than or equal to 3500 J/kg indicates very high instability, resulting in heavy and very heavy thunderstorms, and even tornadoes.

Check the forecast, and stay safe!


Text: Eugenio Monti, a meteorologist and a climatologist

Cover photo: Dan Meyers / Unsplash

Read more:

Explore the different types of precipitation. Rain and snow are just the beginning

How to make rain. Yes, it is really possible

How does rainbow occur


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