Thunder and lightning storms are a natural part of summer. A good storm can drop the temperature a few degrees and keep our gardens watered. But it can also ruin an outdoor wedding or make us get out of the pool before we're ready – or worse. There have been 22 deaths by lightning in the United States so far this year. While this is an average number, the large majority of these fatalities happen during the summer, so it's wise to be wary of thunderstorms.
Most people know to stay away from lone trees when outside during a storm, but are our other beliefs about lightning safety true? Do you really need to get out of the pool when you hear thunder? Do you really need to get off the phone? Take a look at the answers we found.
Do I need to stay or head inside when it's thundering?
Yes. As soon as you hear thunder, you're in danger of being struck by lightning. The danger is closest if it's less than 30 seconds between when you hear thunder and see lightning. You also should stay indoors for about 30 minutes after a storm, as more than half of lightning deaths occur after the storm has passed, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Is it safe to take a shower?
No. While being inside is safer than being outside during a thunderstorm, you can still be indirectly hit by lightning indoors. Called conduction, lightning can travel through wires and metal pipes, such as your water pipes, to injure people. To be safe, avoid electrical outlets and corded devices such as appliances or computers, as well as doing the dishes, washing your hands or taking a shower.
Can I use a cellphone?
Yes. It's the electric current running through the wires from a grounded phone that causes the most concern about being on the phone during a storm. Since a cellphone isn't connected by wires, there's no inherent danger to talking on one during a storm.
Is my car a safe place?
Yes. Cars with metal roofs – and with the doors closed and windows up – are generally safe. Make sure you don't touch the metal around the windows or the steering wheel. If your car is struck by lightning, the charge will go through the car to the tires and the ground, but usually not affect the occupants.
Is it dangerous to help someone who's been struck by lightning?
No. People are not electrically charged after being struck by lightning, so there's no reason not to help them. If a victim isn't breathing, call 911 and start chest compressions or CPR. Even if the victim appears OK, he or she should seek medical attention to get thoroughly examined. Much of the damage from getting struck by lightning occurs in the brain, not by burns.