Lightning Safety: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Jun. 10, 2019

Recent severe weather in the Northeast is a good reminder of the danger of thunderstorms. 

About 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes occur in the U.S. annually, according to the National Weather Service. In an average year, 300 people are struck and 30 killed, with many more suffering lifelong disabilities.

The good news is these incidents are avoidable. By paying attention to weather forecasts and alerts, and taking action when thunderstorms approach, you can minimize the risk of having an outdoor activity end in tragedy. 

Staying Safe in a Thunderstorm 

Princeton University offers the following advice for staying safe in severe weather:

  • Identify in advance a location (e.g., building, bus, personal automobile) that would be safe during a thunderstorm. 
    • ALWAYS seek shelter in a fully-enclosed building or hard-topped vehicle during a storm. 
    • DO NOT seek shelter in tents, golf carts, open-sided structures such as parking garages or picnic shelters, or under trees or grandstands.  
  • Monitor weather and postpone outdoor activities if severe weather is likely.
  • If already outside, suspend activities and seek shelter as soon you hear thunder or see lightning. Do not wait for rain.
  • Stay inside until 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.
  • If caught outdoors during a thunderstorm, crouch down and put your feet together. If part of a group, spread out. Avoid isolated tall trees and structures. 

First Aid

Persons injured by a lightning strike do not carry an electrical charge and can be touched safely. 

  • Call 911 or activate a blue light phone on campus. 
  • If danger has not passed, move yourself and the victim to a safe area. 
  • If the victim is unconscious, check for breathing and perform CPR if you are trained. Cardiac arrest is the most common cause of death from lightning strikes.

Learn more on the Princeton University Emergency Management website

Other Resources

The National Weather Service offers highly useful lightning safety tips and resources, including statistics, toolkits, lightning myths & facts and OSHA information on working safely outdoors.