Surviving a Lightning Strike

In spite of what is depicted in the media and is portrayed in children’s cartoons being struck by lightning does not mean you will burst into flames. Clothes can however get shredded and hair may be singed but you will not burst into a ball of fire. In the majority people struck by lightning do actually survive, however this huge natural phenomena must not be under estimated. It is a killer and it is reported that lightning kills more people in the USA than hurricanes or tornadoes. Zimbabwe makes for the highest number of people, reported to have been killed by one single flash of lightning, 21 people were killed in one hut near Mutare in 1975. Kakadu, in Australia holds the record for having the most lightning strikes in any one year.

What is lightning and where does it come from? The famous kite and key experiment during 1752 by Benjamin Franklin helped to reveal lightning as being an electric current. It was discovered that lightning and electricity were one of the same thing. The over sized lightning flash that you see during a storm is caused by an enormous charge of static electricity that builds up as a result of the activity of masses of water droplets in a cloud. When the charges become big enough, it suddenly jumps to the ground or from cloud to cloud to create a bright flash of lightning.

To be struck by lightning for many people is something which they think will not happen to them, but take heed! If you hear thunder you could be struck. Lightning is often called “an act of god,” because no one can actually define where it will strike.

Contrary to the belief “lightning won’t strike twice,” an American park ranger was hit a total of 7 times in his lifetime. He was known as the “human lightning rod.”

Your “odds” of survival are significantly strengthened if when struck by lightning you are in the presence of someone who can revive you, someone who knows Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Often you will look like you have died when in actual fact you are in cardiac arrest.

It is thought and often said that once you have been hit by lightning you are electrically charged, this is NOT the case and is indeed an “old wives tale.” There is absolutely no danger at all in touching a lightning struck victim.

If you are a Golfer, walker or keen water sport enthusiast, then you are particularly susceptible to being struck by lightning.

In 1971 Lee Trevino won the U.S. Open, Canadian Open and the British Open, four years later during the Western Open in Chicago on 27 June he was sitting on the edge of a green near a lake waiting for a “shower” to pass when suddenly lightning threw him into the air. He was unconscious and taken to hospital with burn marks on his shoulder where the lightning had left his body. It had flashed off the lake, shot through the metal of his golf club and passed up his back. Fortunately he survived to tell his story.

Having been struck by lightning you are rarely left with noticeable scars, so it is likely that you appear to have no physical evidence to back up your story. However it is reported that mysterious ailments may appear after the event.

Although thunderstorms can be frightening, there are safety rules you can apply to remove the danger.

The objective in safety is not how to survive a lightning strike but how to improve your chances of getting hit in the first place during a thunderstorm.

Avoid wide open spaces and large trees and listen to weather forecasts before setting out for your picnic or lengthy walk.

If you are in water get out as quickly as possible.

If you are out when lightning strikes discard golf clubs, umbrellas, fishing rods and indeed any other large metal objects.

If you hear buzzing or you hair starts to stand on end move quickly away, lightning may be about to strike.

Seek for shelter in a vehicle or large building. If you are caught out in the open and there is no shelter nearby, look for a ditch or somewhere low, keep your feet together and crouch down into a ball. DO NOT lie flat this will boost the difference in voltage across your body, amplifying the electrical charge you may receive from radial ground currents, if lightning strikes the ground nearby.

If you are in your car during the storm stay inside, but do not touch the metal of the car body or play with the radio.

When indoors stay AWAY from the windows.

Only use your the telephone in an absolute emergency.

I hope this has given you good insight into surviving a lightning strike. Remember if you are with anyone that gets hit, do not be afraid of giving CPR, you could save a life. You will NOT get an electric shock. Chest compressions and heart massage alone will help until the paramedics arrive if needs must.