Girl outside in rain (Photo: @kiwitanya via Twenty20)

What Not to Do During a Thunderstorm

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Girl outside in rain (Photo: @kiwitanya via Twenty20)
When lightning strikes, its effects are felt almost instantaneously. And by the time you realize it, it’s too late and the damage is done. On average, 49 people are killed by lightning each year, most of them doing everyday activities. Fortunately, you can keep from becoming a statistic by following some simple safety tips when it’s storming outside.
Here is a list of some common activities you should avoid during a thunderstorm and how to protect yourself when storm clouds gather overhead.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Struck by Lightning?

The actual odds of getting struck by lightning during a thunderstorm are relatively low. Your chances of being struck by lightning are less than one in 1 million. On the other hand, this could be because people are taught from an early age to avoid certain activities during a thunderstorm.
If such precautions weren’t taken, the number of lightning strikes would probably be much higher. In fact, lightning is near the top of the list when it comes to weather-related fatalities despite the many common-sense strategies for keeping safe.

How to Protect Yourself During a Thunderstorm

While you can’t totally protect yourself from lightning, you can take steps to reduce the chance that you’re struck. Below is some simple steps you can take both inside and outside to protect yourself from a lightning strike.
Outside: Protecting yourself while outside during a thunderstorm is important. This is because you’re more vulnerable outdoors, where you don’t have the protection of being inside a structure. Some great ways to protect yourself outdoors include:
  • Go indoors if you hear thunder.
  • Don’t go back outside until 30 minutes after the storm is gone.
  • If shelter isn’t available, crouch with as little of your body touching the ground as possible.
  • Avoid objects containing metal, which can conduct electricity, including concrete walls and floors, which usually contain wiring and rebar.
  • Avoid taking shelter next to tall objects, including trees, as they are a good target for a lightning strike.
Inside: With one-third of lightning strikes occurring indoors, being in your home is no guarantee that you won’t be struck by lightning. To protect yourself inside, take the following safety precautions.
  • Avoid activities that use water, including washing the dishes, using the toilet, or taking a shower.
  • Stay away from electronic equipment, such as a TV, computer, or radio.
  • Don’t use a corded phone, as the lightning can travel along the phone line to your location.
  • Stay away from windows and exterior walls and doors.

How to Protect Your Home From Lightning

In addition to taking certain precautions for yourself, you can also protect your home to ensure that the chance of lightning hitting it is less. Below are some ways you can protect your home from lightning.
Install a lightning protection system: Many homes in lightning-prone areas have lightning rods installed. Also called air terminals, these devices don’t actually attract lightning. They are part of a bigger lightning protection system. The purpose of lightning rods, along with the other components of the system, are to disperse the energy from the lightning strike safely into the ground.
Install a fire extinguisher: Even with a lightning protection in system in place, lightning can still strike your home. Be ready for this, and the potential fire such a strike could cause, by installing a fire extinguisher or two in your home. Also, it’s important to make sure they work and that you know how to use them if needed.
Protect against power surges: Using surge protectors to safeguard your electronic devices is a really good idea, but they don’t always work. The energy from a lightning strike is intensely powerful, and a strike could easily rip right through your surge protector, destroying your devices. Your best bet is to unplug your devices if you know a thunderstorm is coming.
Get rid of landlines: If possible, get rid of your landline telephone. Your telephone line is a perfect conductor of electricity and gives lightning a perfect entryway into your home. Fortunately, cell phones and Internet service providers offer an alternative to a landline in many homes.