Hearing the first rumbles of thunder and smelling rain in the air can be a relaxing experience, especially if storms are common in your area. However, thunderstorms can also bring with them dangerous lightning, wind, and rain that can cause significant damage to your property. Out of those, lightning can be especially dangerous to people.
According to the National Weather Service, 49 people are killed each year by lightning, and hundreds more are injured. Sadly, some victims of lightning strikes suffer lifelong neurological damage. That is why it is important to take lightning seriously and take safety precautions.
Here are a variety of lightning safety tips that can help you know what to do during a thunderstorm in a house and also how you can protect yourself from lightning.
If You’re Inside of Your Home
During a thunderstorm, the safest place to be is indoors. However, being indoors doesn’t eliminate the potential for a lightning strike. Nearly one-third of lightning strike injuries occur indoors, and lightning on average led to more than 2,000 injuries in the past 50 years.
When you are indoors during a lightning storm, be aware that lightning can travel through:
- Plumbing systems, so avoid contact with water
- Electrical outlets, so refrain from using electronic equipment
- Telephone wires, so avoid using corded phones
- Metal wires or bars in concrete walls or floors, so stay away from windows, doors, porches, and concrete walls or floors
Staying away from those areas of your home is important, but there are also other details to keep in mind. If you do hear thunder, make sure that you find a safe, enclosed shelter. This applies both if you’re planning to take a trip or go outdoors. Hearing thunder is the best indicator that you should reschedule that activity for another day.
Also, protect expensive electronic equipment by using surge protectors or unplugging high value items. Failing to do so can lead to significant appliance damage or worse, lead to significant fire damage in your home from a burnt appliance that did not have a surge protector. If you do not have a surge protector, consider investing in one to avoid having to unplug appliances everytime a thunderstorm starts.
If You’re Outside
One of the most dangerous places to be in a thunderstorm is outdoors. If you are caught outside, seek shelter immediately.
If there is no shelter nearby, reduce your risk of being struck by:
- Staying away from elevated spots like mountain ridges, peaks, or hilltops. Lightning naturally seeks the highest ground so you may be at increased risk of being struck by lightning if you are in a field, such as a golf course or park.
- Staying low to the ground but not lying down. It is better to minimize your body’s contact with the ground.
- Avoiding bodies of water like lakes, creeks, and ponds.
- Avoiding open fields, tall trees, or objects that may attract lightning.
If You’re Driving
If a thunderstorm starts while you are driving, remain in your vehicle. Contrary to popular belief, waiting a thunderstorm out while inside a car is safer than being outdoors.
However, driving during a lightning storm can be dangerous. To lower your risk:
- Keep windows up and doors shut. Having the windows down during a thunderstorm not only leads to increased chances of you getting wet, it can also increase your risk of being struck by lightning.
- Watch for downed power lines. Running over a downed power line places you or your car at risk of damage. Driving carefully and rerouting where necessary is best than rushing towards danger.
- Leave extra space between your car and the car in front of you. The car may need to suddenly brake due to a downed tree or a power line, and if there is not much space between your car and theirs it could cause you to crash into them.
- Drive slowly. Driving at high velocities on roads covered in rain is never a good idea. Drive at a sensible speed and make sure that you avoid any debris.
- Turn your headlights on to help other drivers see you. Rain and wind make it hard to notice when another car is coming. Keeping your headlights on is a small, but helpful gesture that can tell other cars that you’re nearby.
The best decision, if possible, is to find a safe place to park and wait out the storm.
What Should I Do If My Home is Struck by Lightning?
In the event your home is struck by lightning, here are a few steps you should take to ensure you and your home are safe:
- Make sure everyone is ok, and if you smell smoke or see fire, leave your home immediately. Fire spreads quickly throughout your home and it can lead to significant damage to your property if not put out quickly.
- Call 911 and tell them your home was struck by lightning, regardless of whether you see fire or smell smoke. They’ll be able to reach out to the fire department who can then inspect your property.
- The fire department will arrive to inspect your property and identify any damage using special equipment that can see inside your walls. It’s these tools that will verify that your home is not at risk of a small ember or unseen fire quickly spreading throughout the walls of your home.
- Return to your home only after the fire department gives you the ok. Returning earlier may expose you to harmful smoke or soot or increase your risk of being stuck inside of a room while a fire spreads.
- Contact the appropriate experts:
- Call your insurance company to let them know your home was struck. They’ll walk you through the steps and coverage your policy provides while also ensuring that you have the support you need throughout the claim process.
- Call an electrician to inspect your home’s wiring. A damaged wire may catch fire or spark well beyond the end of the thunderstorm. A quick check of your wires will give you peace of mind and also help you fix any potential damage that may have been caused by the lightning.
- Call a restoration company if you have any fire or smoke damage. A restoration company such as ServiceMaster Restore, will be able to inspect your home to address fire and smoke damage, determine the appropriate steps to restore any damage, and also inspect any damaged belongings that are recoverable are restored.
Contact the Experts If Your Property Has Been Damaged by Lightning
If your home has fire or smoke damage due to lightning, our highly-trained restoration technicians can help salvage your recoverable belongings and help remove smoke odor from your home. We’ll keep you informed throughout the process and help you get your home back to normal as quickly as possible.
ServiceMaster Restore has more than 850 locations across the United States that are locally owned and operated. Our local restoration experts will help you get back to normal as quickly as possible.
Call 1-800-RESPOND to reach our disaster response center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.