Many people are scared of thunderstorms, and for good reason: Lightning is beautiful yet dangerous. While there are many obvious things you should never do during a thunderstorm—like going outside or taking a shower, for starters—you may be wondering about some activities that are in more of a gray area, like using your phone. But how dangerous is it, really?
Can you attract lightning?
John Jensenius, lightning safety specialist for the National Weather Service, says you can’t really attract lightning. It will always land whenever it’s going to land.
However, lightning will follow certain things like wires, fences, or any conducive surface that may be nearby. So, while you might not be able to alter the general place lightning will land on, you can prevent it from reaching you directly.
Cellphone vs. landline: Which is the safest?
Lightning loves wires. Therefore, a landline is not safe to use during a storm. Besides metal and wires, lightning bolts will often land on elevated surfaces—like telephone poles. Wires flow out of these towers into homes, ending on the land phone. If you happen to be talking on the phone when lightning strikes, it may follow that exact trajectory and, by being on the other end of the phone, you could receive the full impact of the electrical current.
In 1986, a 17-year-old was found dead in his room with a phone to his ear. He had been electrocuted. Since then, more cases like this have resurfaced, enforcing the rule that you should always stay away from landlines during a storm.
“Okay, but what about my cellphone?” The problem with landlines are the wires connected to the outside, and this is something that cellphones don’t have. Therefore, if you are using your cellphone while inside your home, you should be fine.
However, if you happen to be outside, avoid using it because phones contain metal. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.