Bay Area Medical Information (
Lightning Safety
If you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning...
  • Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating Lightningsymptoms.(1)
  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.(1)
  • "Heat lightning" is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.(1)
  • Remember the 30/30 rule: If it is 30 seconds or less between seeing the flash of lightning and hearing the thunder, lightning is close enough to hit you. Wait 30 minutes after you see the last flash of lightning before leaving your shelter.(2)
  • Avoid water, beaches and boats
  • Avoid high ground, open spaces and isolated large trees during a thunder storm
  • Seek shelter inside a building or non-convertible automobile
  • Anywhere you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike) Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact it the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground.(1)


  • Stay away from doors, windows and water
  • Stay off the telephone and
  • Turn off and unplug electrical appliances.
How to help a victim struck by lightning

1) Call 9-1-1 for medical assistance as soon as possible.
2) Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.
3) First check for the presence of Breathing - if breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
4) Then check for a Heartbeat - if the heart has stopped, administer CPR.
5) If the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Also be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing and eyesight. (1)

(1) Lightning and Thunderstorms from FEMA
(2) Accu-Weather Handbook 2006 from ABC Action News
--Written by N Thompson, ARNP in collaboration with M Thompson, MD, Internal Medicine, June 2004, Last updated April 2006

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