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Lightning Action Guide

Danger During Thunderstorms | If Outdoors | If Indoors | First Aid | Lightning Facts and Myths

Danger During Thunderstorms 

Each year in Australia lightning claims up to ten lives and causes over 100 injuries. Up to 80 of those injuries happen when people use telephones during thunderstorms and receive an electric shock, hearing damage, or burns when lightning strikes telephone wires in their area. Take these precautions before and during thunderstorms:

Take Action Now

  • Protect yourself and family by following advice on this guide. Keep it handy on the fridge or by the phone.
  • Check with your local council for advice on lightning conductors for homes and other buildings.

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If Caught Outdoors

If you hear thunder 10 seconds after a lightning flash, it is only about three kilometres away. The shorter the time, the closer the lightning, so find shelter urgently as follows:

  • Seek shelter in a hard top vehicle or solid building - avoid small structures or fabric tents.
  • Never shelter under small groups of (or single) trees.
  • If far from shelter, crouch (alone, feet together), preferably in a hollow.
  • Remove metal objects from head/body. Don't lie down flat but avoid being highest object.
  • If your hair stands on end or you hear buzzing on nearby rocks, fences etc, move immediately. At night, a blue glow may show if an object is about to be struck.
  • Don't flying kites or model planes with control wires.
  • Don't handle fishing rods, umbrellas or golf clubs etc.
  • Stay away from metal poles, fences, clothes lines etc.
  • Never ride horses, cycles or drive in open vehicles.
  • If driving, slow down or park away from trees, power lines etc. Stay inside metal-bodied (hard top) vehicles or caravans but don't touch any metal sections.
  • If swimming, surfing etc, leave the water immediately.
  • If boating, go ashore to shelter as soon as possible. (A bridge or high jetty may offer immediate protection.)
  • Be sure the mast and stays of a sailing boat are adequately grounded to the water.

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If you are Indoors

  • Before the storm arrives, disconnect external aerial and power leads to radios and television sets. Disconnect computer modems and power leads.
  • Draw all curtains and keep clear of windows, electrical appliances, pipes and other metal fixtures (e.g. avoid taking a bath or shower).
  • Avoid use of telephones. In emergencies, make calls brief, (don't touch any metal, brick or concrete) and do not stand bare foot on concrete or tiled floors.

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  • Apply immediate heart massage and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to lightning victims until medical help arrives and they will have a good chance of survival. (You won't receive a shock from the victim.)

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Lightning Facts and Myths

  • When struck, people do not glow or fry to a crisp but the heart and breathing are often affected.
  • Only about 30% of people struck, actually die, and the incidence of long term disability is low, particularly when first-aid is applied promptly.
  • If your clothes are wet, you are less likely to be seriously injured if struck, as most of the charge will conduct through the wet clothes rather than your body.
  • Average lightning bolts carry a current of 10,000 to 30,000 amps. An average radiator draws 10 amps.
  • Lightning can, and often does, strike more than once in the same place.
  • Worldwide, thunderstorms are producing approximately 6,000 lightning strikes every minute!

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Information supplied by Australian Emergency Management Institute (AEMI) Link to External Site