April, 2010
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Lightning Safety Tips


Storms are commonplace in the spring and represent a hazard to home inspectors. Lightning strikes the United States as many as 20 million times each year, traditionally causing more deaths than tornadoes or hurricanes.

Data from the National Weather Service show that lightning strikes are fatal in approximately 10 percent of strike victims. Another 70 percent of survivors suffer serious long-term effects.

Outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a lightning storm. Because lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles, blue skies are not a sign of safety. If you hear thunder, take cover.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) recommend following these guidelines to stay safe during electrical storms:

  1. If outdoors, go inside. Look for a shelter equipped with a lightning protection system.

  2. Go to a low point. Lightning hits the tallest object. Get down if you are in an exposed area.

  3. Stay away from trees.

  4. Avoid metal. Don’t hold metal items, including bats, golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets or tools. Avoid clotheslines, poles and fences.

  5. If you feel a tingling sensation or your hair stands on end, lightning may be about to strike. Crouch down — lightning strikes the tallest object in the area — and cover your ears to protect your hearing from the thunder.

  6. Stay away from water. This includes pools, lakes, puddles and anything damp, such as wet poles or grass.

  7. Don’t stand close to other people. Spread out.

  8. Once indoors, stay away from windows and doors.

  9. Do not use corded telephones except for emergencies.

  10. Unplug electronic equipment before the storm arrives and avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords during storms.

  11. Avoid contact with plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets. Do not take baths and showers during electrical storms.

Source: UL.com