What to do When Lightning Strikes

From the Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office:

Recent storms have led to numerous reports of lightning strikes and damage to homes in Montgomery County

You probably won’t wonder if your house does experience a strike. Thunder and lightning are loud, but a direct strike is unmistakable. Your power will likely go out, there will probably be an enormous explosive sound, and you might hear buzzing or hissing sounds afterward.

If you see or smell smoke in your home, evacuate immediately and call 911 from a safe place. If you suspect that lightning may have struck near your home, but there are no signs of fire, you should first check for roof damage to prevent further water from entering your home.

Experts say that after you make your initial emergency checks for roof damage and fire, you should inspect these elements to determine whether there is any damage: Some you can do yourself and some may require a qualified service technician.

  • Check circuit breakers, outlets, and light switches for functionality
  • Check the home’s wiring using a resistance tester to determine whether any wiring is damaged
  • Test landline telephones to see whether they still work
  • Test the pressure in water supply lines to identify any leaks
  • Visually inspect for leaks in all plumbing lines


Risks of Lightning Strikes to Persons

Although the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are only around 1 in 500,000, some factors can put you at greater risk. Lightning most often strikes people who work outside or engage in outdoor recreational activities. Regional and seasonal differences can also affect your risk of being injured by lightning.

In 2017, Florida, Alabama, Colorado, North Carolina, and Texas had the most lightning deathsExternal. Florida is considered the “lightning capital” of the country, with more than 2,000 lightning injuries over the past 50 years.

The consequences of lightning strikes are serious. Lightning is one of the leading causes of weather-related fatalities. During 2004–2013, lightning caused an average of 33 deaths per year in the United States. When you see lightning, take safety precautions.

Protect Yourself from Lightning Strikes

You can protect yourself from risk even if you are caught outdoors when lightning is close by.

Safety precautions outdoors

  • If the weather forecast calls for thunderstorms, postpone your trip or activity.
  • Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors. Find a safe, enclosed shelter.
  • The main lightning safety guide is the 30-30 rule. After you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
  • If no shelter is available, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground as possible. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly over 100 feet away.
  • Stay away from concrete floors or walls. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

Although you should move into a non-concrete structure if possible, being indoors does not automatically protect you from lightning. In fact, about one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors.




Safety precautions indoors

  • Avoid water during a thunderstorm. Lightning can travel through plumbing.
  • Avoid electronic equipment of all types. Lightning can travel through electrical systems and radio and television reception systems.
  • Avoid corded phones. However, cordless or cellular phones are safe to use during a storm.
  • Avoid concrete floors and walls.

Lightning strikes may be rare, but they still happen and the risk of serious injury or death is severe. So take thunderstorms seriously.

Learn how to protect you and your loved ones during a thunderstorm. Being outside when lightning is present is not something to take lightly—ever.


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