Outdoor Lightening Safety Tips

By Larry Metzler

High on the list of activities where people are injured by lightning are mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians. Many people who are enjoying the outdoors are unaware of the measures they can take to lower their risk of being struck by lightning. They should educate themselves about lightning strikes. They should be near safe shelter and try to avoid high terrain, golf courses, and bodies of water during high lightning activity (late morning to evening).

  • If you are caught above the tree line when a storm approaches, descend quickly. Avoid isolated trees. It is better to run into a forest.
  • Electric storms can also develop in the middle of the night. To lower your odds, don't pitch your tent near the tallest trees in the vicinity.
  • You should run into a forest if a shelter or car is not nearby, stay away from the tallest trees.
  • Drop metal objects and packs with internal or external metal frames.
  • Get off the bicycles, motorcycles, or horses. Metal gates, metal fences, and utility poles are also to be avoided.
  • If you are caught in an open field, seek a low spot. Crouch with your feet together and head low.
  • If Someone Is Struck - People who have been hit by lightning carry no electric charge and can be safely tended to. Also, victims who appear dead can often be revived. If the person is not breathing, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.¬† But if a pulse is absent as well and you know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), begin CPR. Stay with the victim until help arrives.
  • Don't sit or lie down, because these positions provide much more contact with the ground, providing a wider path for lightning to follow. If you are with a group¬†and the threat of lightning is high, spread out at least 15 feet apart to minimize the chance of everybody getting hit.
  • Don't return to an open area too soon. People have been struck by lightning near the end of a storm, which is still a dangerous time.

The above tips were adapted from the U.S. Forest Service outdoor safety tips website.

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Stay safe and enjoy the outdoors.