Madison, WI,
17:06 PM

Be Safe When Lightning Threatens

Protect yourself and your family in an electrical storm.


While lightning is pretty to watch, it can be deadly and destructive.

On average, lightning kills 54 Americans every year and injures 400. In addition, lightning causes significant property damage – nearly $1 billion in 2012.

Minimize your risk

Outdoors, there’s no absolutely safe place during a thunderstorm. When you first see lightning, start counting. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts it, “When thunder roars, go indoors.”

Your best shelter in a thunderstorm is a building that’s well-grounded. These are buildings with electrical wiring, plumbing, etc., and include homes, offices and schools. Avoid small, open shelters on golf courses, at parks and in picnic areas. These structures are designed for protection from rain and sun – not lightning.

If you can't get to safe shelter, avoid open fields, tops of hills and ridges. Stay away from isolated trees or other tall objects, and avoid water, wet items and metal.

Be safe inside

Once inside, avoid contact with concrete walls, which may contain metal reinforcing bars. Don’t touch anything that’s plugged into an electrical outlet or connected to water. Also, stay away from corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe since there’s no direct wire to you from the building. Whenever possible, unplug appliances or electronic equipment before a thunderstorm threatens.

Remember your pets, too. Outdoor dog houses aren’t lightning-safe; dogs on a chain attached to trees or wire runners can easily be a victim of a lightning strike.

While you can’t stop a storm from occurring, with care and common sense, you reduce your chance of injury or property damage.

Lightning Safety Quiz

  1. Lightning can strike the same place more than once. True or False?
  2. If it’s not raining or cloudy, you’re safe from lightning. True or False?
  3. If you can’t find shelter and are caught outside when lightning is about to strike, avoid lying flat on the ground. True or False?
  4. Inside a house, you’re 100 percent safe from lightning. True or False?


  1. True. Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s tall, pointy or isolated. For example, the Empire State Building is struck by lightning nearly 100 times a year.
  2. False. Lightning can strike 10-15 miles from thunderstorms.
  3. True. Do not lie flat on the ground, as it increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. Continue to seek safe shelter indoors.
  4. False. Although a house generally is safe during a thunderstorm, contact with anything that conducts electricity can be hazardous. Stay off corded phones, and don’t touch electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing and metal doors. Avoid windows, which can be shattered by flying objects.

Check out these related resources:

Storm Survival KitsTornado Safety