In 2013, 23 lightening fatalities were reported in the United States by the National Weather Service. Florida and Arizona tie for the highest number of fatalities. Although the odds of you being stuck are slim, even if you survive being struck most injuries are serious and lifelong. A direct hit by lightning is very rare and only accounts for 3-5% of lightening fatalities. A person is more likely to be injured or killed by ground current that spreads out through the earth, rock or water from the point of lightning contact. If you spend anytime outdoors it is important to learn and understand lightning safety.
The National Weather Service states that “NO PLACE outside is safe when lightning is in the area.” The best place to be during a lightning storm is inside. If you cannot get indoors there are some things you can do to survive a lightning storm. If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning.
Guidelines for Avoiding Lightning Strikes
If you find yourself caught in a lightning storm, do not panic. Stay calm and take the proper immediate precautions. Immediately leave open fields, elevated mountain tops, or watery areas. Get away from tall or isolated structures and never use trees as shelter. The idea that electronic devices and metal on your body attract lightning is a myth, so don’t take the time to remove these. Find shelter to ride out the storm. If you are driving stay inside the vehicle, on or under a vehicle is bad. If no shelter can be found, sit on an insulated pad or other object to reduce contact with ground current. Spread your group out to avoid a multiple-casualty strike. If moving toward safety keep moving. Avoid open areas where you are the tallest object. Do not hold wire fence, wet rope, or other conductors.
Because the charge simply passes through the body, a lightning strike victim does not carry an electric charge after being struck. If they are not breathing or have no pulse, start performing CPR chest compressions until they regain consciousness or help arrives. Treat electrical burns as you would any other type. Neurological and internal injuries are possible, however, 80% of people recover after being hit by lightning. It is also possible for someone to be hit by lightning and be practically uninjured.