Most of us understand, at the most basic level, that being struck by lightning is something to be avoided. In the first place, we know that the massive concentration of electrical energy (125,000,000 volts in a single stroke) can fry us as surely as "Old Sparky" at the state prison.
But the person who manages to survive a lightning strike can spend the remaining years of life coping with memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, numbness, dizziness, joint and muscle pain, irritability, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, heart palpitations, depression, and personality changes. If the autonomic nervous system is badly damaged, a "survivor" can die days later after these most basic brain functions fail.
Therefore, lightning must always be taken seriously, and there are proven methods for minimizing your risk of being struck.
1. The "30-30 Rule." If you see lightning, and hear thunder less than 30 seconds afterward, it is time to seek shelter if you are outdoors. After lightning and thunder have ceased, it is strongly recommended that you wait 30 minutes before going outside or resuming normal activities.
2. Thunderstorms do not come "out of nowhere," and unlike other natural phenomena such as earthquakes, they give us ample warning. Therefore, when you see the sky darken in such a way as to indicate probable thunderstorm activity, it is wise, when indoors, to unplug appliances when possible and use a cordless or cell phone rather than one with a cord. Avoid using the plumbing, which can conduct electricity. Avoid water in sinks and bathtubs. Stay in the interior of the house or shelter, away from windows and doors.
3. Special precautions are essential if you are caught out of doors when lightning is present. Look for bushes, low trees and substantial buildings (equipped with plumbing and wiring to conduct lightning into the ground) for shelter. A car with a metal top, and windows closed, is a good choice, but you must exercise caution when stepping out of it later.
4. In the absence of covering shelter, attempt to find low ground, such as a dip or culvert.
5. You do not want to be, or be near, the tallest object in the area. This includes trees, telephone poles, isolated buildings and hilltops. You do not want to be near water, and should strive to get away from puddles or boggy areas.
6. Stay away from metal objects. If you cannot get into a car, then move away from it. Move away from fences and ropes. Abandon bicycles, golf clubs, umbrellas and lawn mowers. Take off shoes with metal cleats.
7. If you are isolated and away from shelter, do your best to keep as much of your body off the ground as possible. Do not lie flat. The safest position is a crouch (feet on ground, knees off, head ducked lower than the shoulders). Remove metal jewelry from your body if you can.
8. If you are with a group of people, you may feel more secure huddling together, but it is safer for individuals to be spaced several yards apart.
If someone is struck by lightning, they are safe to touch and should receive medical attention immediately. They may need a combination of mouth-to-mouth, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and treatment for burns.
These precautions for remaining safe during an electrical storm are the same throughout the world.