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Lightning Safety

Lightning can at occur any time of the year, but typically occurs between May and September. If you are outdoors and hear or see thunder or lightning, take shelter immediately. If you cannot find a sturdy, fully enclosed building, get into vehicle with a metal roof and rubber tires. Stay inside the vehicle for 30 minutes after you hear the last rumble of thunder.

Lightning Facts

  • Lightning occurs when the air becomes charged with electricity, typically during a thunderstorm.
  • Bolts of lightning travel at about 40,000 kilometers per second.
  • Every year in Canada, lightning can cause as many as 10 deaths and 164 injuries.
  • More people are struck before and after a thunderstorm than during the storm itself.

Lightning Related Safety Tips

  • Plan for a safe day, check the weather forecast first. If lightning/thunderstorms are in the forecast, avoid being outdoors at that time. Identify safe places to take shelter during the storm and determine how long it will take you to reach them.
  • If you are outdoors and can see lightning or hear thunder, you are in danger of being hit. Seek shelter immediately, preferably in a sturdy fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing. Sheds, picnic shelters, tents or covered porches do not protect you from lightning.
  • Stay away from, and do not handle, electrical equipment or items that conduct electricity such as corded telephones, appliances, sinks, bathtubs, radiators and metal pipes.
  • Using a computer or wired video game system, taking a bath or touching a metal window frame all put you at risk of being struck by lightning. Use battery-operated appliances only.
  • If caught outdoors far from shelter, stay away from tall objects. This includes trees, poles, wires and fences. Take shelter in a low-lying area, but be on alert for possible flooding.
  • If you must make a phone call, the safest device to use during lightning is your cell phone.
  • Wait 30 minutes after the last lightning strike in a severe storm before venturing outside again.
  • Do not ride bicycles, motorcycles, tractors, or golf carts during a thunder/lightning storm. These will not protect you from a lightning strike.

You may also want to take the following steps to protect your household appliances/electronics during a storm:

  • Unplug them whenever you’re expecting a storm.
  • Install Point-Of-Use Surge Protection Devices (SPDs), combined with a good grounding system.

If On Open Water

  • Get to shore as quickly as possible. The high waves and strong gusts of wind associated with sudden fast-moving storms can make it difficult for swimmers, boaters and water skiers to reach shore safely. Lightning that hits water travels well beyond its point of contact.
  • Small boats with no cabin provide less protection than boats with enclosed cabins.