Summer can make for unpredictable weather, with temperatures fluctuating wildly and the weather going from bright and sunny to rainy in what seems like mere minutes. And while those sudden changes in weather may be frustrating when they put a damper on your plans, they can also take a more serious turn when lightning is involved. However, it’s not just your own safety you may be jeopardizing during a lightning storm, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—a common behavior could put others in harm’s way, too. Read on to discover what you should never do near other people if you see lightning outdoors.
While there may be safety in numbers in many situations, a lightning storm isn’t one of them.
In fact, if you find yourself caught outdoors during a lightning storm, the CDC advises breaking off from your group. “This will reduce the number of injuries if lightning strikes the ground,” the authority explains.
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Lightning frequently strikes tall buildings and other conductive objects, like fences and power lines, so it may seem reasonable that you’d want to make yourself as flat as possible if you find yourself caught outdoors during a storm.
However, the CDC cautions that if you find yourself outside during a storm, this is a misguided idea. Instead, make your body into a ball, tucking your head down and covering your ears with your hands. In this position, the CDC explains, your body is low, but has less surface area in contact with the ground, which may be struck.
Though moving away from others and balling up are your best bets if you’re stuck outdoors, if you can get inside safely, you should always do so. Once you’re inside, the CDC recommends staying away from windows, doors, and semi-enclosed areas of your home, like porches.
However, just because you’re inside, that doesn’t mean you’re entirely safe: the CDC reports that 32% of lightning strike injuries occur indoors.
If you want to protect yourself once you’re inside, avoiding any activity that uses water, including washing dishes or showering; avoiding concrete floors or walls, which may have metal pipes in them that electricity from lightning strikes can travel through; and not using corded phones or electronic equipment.