How To Protect Yourself From Lightning Strikes


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It is storm season in Australia and, while being struck by lightning is considered a rare occurrence, there are several steps people can take to keep safe.

ABC science expert Dr Karl Kruszelnicki said there were roughly 100 lightning strikes every second around the world resulting in about 100 deaths per year.

He said the safest place to be during an electrical storm was indoors.

If you are indoors:

If you are indoors, the Bureau of Meteorology suggests unplugging appliances before the storm hits.

Dr Kruszelnicki said it was particularly important to stay away from telephones during a storm.

“If you have a landline phone connected by a wire to the exchange, lightning can hit anywhere along that line depending on how the wire travels (underground or overground),” Dr Kruszelnicki said.

“Telstra does warn there are cases where people have been harmed using a corded phone.

“You should switch off all your electrical appliances, even switch them off at the circuit board.”

The BOM also advises anyone indoors to close all of their windows and doors and to stay away from openings including as fire places.

Dr Kruszelnicki said the safest place to be was in the middle of the building.

“Sit or huddle in the middle of the room and enjoy the show,” he said.
The BOM and Dr Kruszelnicki also advised people not to take a bath because water and metal are electrical conductors.

If you are outside:

The BOM urges people to seek shelter in a vehicle or building if possible.

A man was killed and a woman injured while camping under a tree that was struck by lightning on Mt Warning in northern New South Wales on Tuesday morning.

A farmer from Fernleigh, about 80 kilometres south of Mt Warning, also reported losing five bullocks to a lightning strike in the storms that began on Monday night.

The BOM warns not to shelter under tall objects such as trees or poles.

Dr Kruszelnicki said if no safe shelter was available, people should curl into a ball in a standing position.

“You crouch over so you’re about half-a-metre-high and have your feet as close together as possible, so you’re a single point of contact,” he said.

“Do not run, do not lie down.” The BOM also urges people in a group to spread out and stay several metres from each other.

Water and objects that conduct electricity (golf clubs, umbrellas and metal fences for example) should also be avoided.

If you are in a vehicle:

Dr Kruszelnicki said a vehicle was safer place to be than outside.

However, he said if you were inside a vehicle you should not touch its walls.

“Inside a car with a body made of metal, that will act as a faraday cage [an earthed metal screen set up to exclude electrostatic and electromagnetic influences],” he said.

“The lightning will hit the car and travel through the car and bypass you.

“But I would stick to the middle of the car and even go to the backseat and hide on the floor, or have the front seats laid flat and stick to the middle.

“Do not touch anything metal, or the wall of the car.” The BOM advises to keep the vehicle’s windows and doors closed, and not to park under trees or other tall objects.

It also urges people to be wary of downed power lines that may be touching their vehicle.

Avoid areas where lightning has struck before

Dr Kruszelnicki said it was important to remember lightning often struck the same location repeatedly.

“They’re wrong when they say lightning never strikes twice, in fact the exact opposite is true, lightning likes to strike twice in the same place,” he said.

“Suppose you have a mountain, a valley, and wind, it will tend to follow the same pattern year after year.

“In my street in suburban Sydney, my neighbour has had her house struck by lightning through the front window twice in six years.

“A national parks officer in the US has been zapped seven times, the poor bloke.”

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