How to protect yourself from lightning in a thunderstorm?
A lightning strike is one of the greatest dangers of a storm and it is necessary to know how to act if you are in danger. But how do we know whether we are in danger or not? Experts use a rule known as 30/30: if the distance between thunder and lightning is 30 seconds or less, it is very important to seek shelter.
Take note of these tips to protect yourself from lightning in a thunderstorm:
1. Find shelter
If you are outdoors, it is important to find a house or building where you can take shelter as soon as possible. First of all, you should stay away from elevated areas, such as hills or mountain tops. It is also important not to be near trees, especially if they are isolated or tall: a lone tree increases the strength of the electric field due to its humidity and verticality.
It is possible that the closest thing you have is a car, so it can become a good shelter: make sure you close it tightly, do not be in contact with the doors and disconnect the radio antenna and the engine. If the lightning strikes the vehicle, it will be charged only on the outside, so the inside will remain intact.
In case you are in a forest or in a place far away from any shelter, be it a building or a car, you should make yourself a small target to avoid being hit. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in the UK (ROSPA) recommends squatting down, with your feet together, hands on your knees and head between your legs. In addition, you should get rid of any metal equipment you may be carrying, such as climbing tools, and turn off electronic devices. Leave all these objects at a distance of about 50 metres to protect yourself.
2. Get out of the water and move away immediately.
If you are in or near water at the time of the storm, you should get out of the water as soon as possible, as water contains mineral salts and is conductive.
If you are in a swimming pool, the risk of impact is unlikely but not impossible, as if lightning strikes a metal object near the water, such as railings or stairs, the electricity will pass into the pool.
If, on the other hand, you are in the sea, the chances of being an easy target for a lightning strike increase quantitatively, as salt water improves the conductivity of electricity.
3. Do not run.
Under no circumstances should you run, and even less so if your clothes are wet, as the air turbulence created by movement can attract lightning. The first thing to do is to stay calm: remember that the safest position is to squat down. This will reduce your own height and the chance of being struck by lightning.
4. Stay away from doors and windows and unplug electrical appliances.
If you have taken shelter or were at home at the time of the storm, you should close all doors and windows: draughts can attract lightning. Also stay away from any openings, such as fireplaces, and if they are lit, turn them off immediately: the hot air that rises is charged with ions and this increases conductivity and the possibility of electric shock.
It is important to disconnect all electrical appliances to avoid electrical overloads, which can cause a fire. Also disconnect the television aerial and do not touch the plugs.
Another dangerous element in the event of being at home during a thunderstorm is the use of water: avoid taking a shower, washing the dishes or carrying out any activity that involves turning on the tap, as water, as we mentioned earlier, increases the risk of electrocution.
And the big question is... lights off or on? During a thunderstorm you can leave the lights on: this does not increase the chance of a lightning strike.
5. Avoid exposure to a thunderstorm
The best way to avoid having to protect yourself from lightning is to avoid it. Plan your outings in advance and stay informed of thunderstorm forecasts. In addition, it is imperative that you are prepared in case you find yourself in a similar situation; know where the nearest shelters are and carry an emergency kit.
If you find yourself in the middle of a thunderstorm, take all necessary measures to protect yourself and wait in a shelter until at least 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder.