Mother Nature is an unpredictable and often terrifying thing. At any given moment, something could burst out of the ground or fall out of the sky, scathing or shattering anything in its path. We’re speaking, of course, about a lightning strike. Surviving a lightning strike is all about handling burns, shock, and damage to the nervous system. That’s quite a lot of damage for something that only exists for a fraction of a second. Here are some tips on how to survive a lightning strike.
Staying Aware of Lightning Storms
Lightning kills an average of 60 people and injures over 300 per year. With that said, it certainly sounds like your chance of survival is in your favor. While that’s true, lightning injuries can be pretty traumatic. Many people who survive lightning strikes suffer damage to their nervous system and even show dramatic changes in their personalities. Often, people report long-term cluster headaches.
Obviously, the best course of action is to stay indoors during a lightning storm, although unfortunately, even that’s no guarantee. Go indoors immediately when you see the following signs of impending storm:
- Grey cumulonimbus clouds
- Increasing winds
- Darkening skies
Whenever you hear thunder, it means the storm is close enough to strike you. Thunder travels around 15 miles and lightning can strike you up to 10 miles away from the storm itself (even when there are blue skies above where you’re standing).
While inside, unplug computers, TVs, and whatever else uses a lot of electricity. Then, avoid touching anything metal inside your house that is grounded as much as you can. That means faucets, pipes, metal beams, or any electrical wiring. While lightning strike-related injuries are still possible inside your home, they’re very rare. Most homes are built with some sort of metal frame that carries the intense electrical charge into the ground. So, staying indoors is key to surviving a lightning strike.
Tips for Surviving a Lightning Strike
If it’s too late and you or someone around you is struck by lightning, it’s important to follow these steps immediately.
Those who are struck by lightning may experience cardiac arrest almost immediately following a lightning strike. Immediate response is key, so as soon as the lightning strikes, call 911—even if the victim seems fine, or just a little shaken up.
Help when it’s safe
You know the saying “lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice?” That’s a total myth, so be very careful when helping the victim.
Here are some signs that lightning is about to strike:
- Hair standing up
- Feeling static in your body (tingling skin)
- Metallic taste in your mouth
- A smell of chlorine (that would be nitrogen oxides in the ozone interacting with chemicals close to the ground)
- Sweaty palms
- Buzzing/vibrating/cracking sound from metal objects
In a thunderstorm, these signs should be very obvious and rather jarring if you’re aware of them, so don’t risk it! Lightning can strike just seconds after initials signs!
Once it’s safe, pat the victim gently before making full contact. It’s very possible they’re still carrying a charge and they can pass the shock onto you. Once you find that it’s safe, drag them to a safer area as quick as possible.
Surviving a lightning strike after it has already occurred is a very time sensitive matter. Once it’s safe to touch the victim and you’re in a safe area, you may begin CPR. This is only necessary if they are unconscious and not breathing normally or at all. Don’t remove burned clothing unless absolutely necessary.
For a lightning strike, treat them for shock as well as CPR. Lay the victim down with head a little bit lower than the legs and torso. From this point on, you’re just waiting for a medical team to arrive and take care of the situation, so stand by and continue this process if necessary.