Lightning Safety

A Season for Concern

Are You Protected? More Americans are killed by lightning than tornadoes.


  • Thunderstorms indicate lightning.
  • Did you know that other than the state of Florida, the Miami Valley is one of the most frequent areas to develop dangerous thunderstorms with lightning?
  • Property loss in the United States is in the hundred of millions annually due to lightning. Often the reasons for a call to the fire department is to investigate a smoking or damaged appliance, power outages, or even damage to the house itself. It is all too often that we respond to house fires as a direct result of lightning.Lightning kills approximately 100 americans annually
  • Property loss in the U.S. is estimated in the hundreds of millions each year.
  • Lightning is one of the leading causes of spring and summer fires.
  • Fire and damage from lightning can be prevented.
  • Nearby trees do not protect your home from lightning.
  • Lightning does not have to hit your home to cause fire or damage.
  • TV antennae, even grounded, do not offer protection.
  • A properly installed lightning system has been shown to be 99% effective in preventing lightning damage to your home.
  • The cost of a lightning protection system is usually less than 1% of the value of your home.
  • Be sure your lightning protection contractor carries a UL listing
  • Every year, on average, there are 200 deaths and 750 serious injuries in the United States due to lightning strikes according to FEMA. Ohio ranks as one of the top states in the country for lightning deaths and injuries. Most of these incidents occur during warmer weather months, when most of us spend more time outdoors.

New Concerns

Our homes today are filled with sophisticated electronic equipment. Everything from home computers to color televisions are controlled by sensitive electronics. When a lightning strike occurs this equipment can be easily damaged or destroyed. A direct lightning hit is not necessary to cause serious damage to electronics in your home. A strike within 500 to 1000 feet can cause damage or fire.


If you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning. Even if you see the sun or blue sky, a thunderstorm that may be nearby but not overhead can produce a lightning strike that can reach over 10 miles outside of the actual storm!

Knowing where to go when caught outdoors in the vicinity of lightning is essential to greatly reducing your risk of being struck. Lightning generally prefers to strike the tallest objects in your vicinity. Trees, light poles, fences, and small isolated structures are examples of lightning rods that can surround you while enjoying your time outdoors.

Did you know that damage and fires caused by lightning can be prevented? By adding a lightning protection system to your home you can be 99% effective in preventing lightning damage and fire cause by lightning to your home. Lightning protection systems neither attract nor repel lightning strikes, they simply provide a safe electrical path to earth for the lightning's energy.

Safety Shelters

When outside and you hear thunder, or even see a storm approaching, you should head to a sturdy building immediately. When safe shelter is sought during threatening weather, remember to wait 30 minutes until after the last rumble of thunder to make your way back outdoors. Buildings that are safe from lightning include:

  • Homes
  • Schools
  • Office buildings
  • Shopping centers
  • Any structure with a fully enclosed roof, walls, and floor

Places and structures that do not provide ample protection from lightning:

  • Car ports
  • Covered but open garages
  • Covered patio
  • Covered picnic areas
  • Gazebos
  • Baseball / softball dugouts
  • Pavilions
  • Tents
  • Sheds

Safety Measures in the Case of No Shelter
If there is no safe shelter around, a vehicle is the next best option for protection. If there is no vehicle present, separate yourself from the nearest person to you by at least 15 ft and stay away from any objects taller than you. Crouch low to the ground and grab your ankles, or even put your feet together and sit on the ground. It's important to remember that no place is safe outdoors when lightning is present. These suggestions merely lesson your chance of being struck by lightning if you can not find a suitable, safe shelter.

When out on the water, a general rule of thumb is to come ashore as quickly as possible. Only boats with cabins that have fully installed lightning protection systems offer sufficient safety from lightning. If you plan to be out on the water, it is imperative that you follow local weather reports and keep an eye to the sky.

A thunderstorm does not have to be considered strong or severe to pose a lightning threat! Do not wait for the National Weather Service to issue a severe thunderstorm warning in order to take action. Again, if you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning! However, it is always best to have a NOAA Weather Radio on hand at all times while outdoors. Portable Internet access is highly suggested as well. WHIOTV will always provide the latest forecast and radar updates from Storm Center 7. 

Note: Information from WHIOTV. All rights reserved.