Here’s How To Stay Safe In A Storm, Because Lightning Does Strike Twice

The death of a man struck by lightning at a racecourse in Dubbo yesterday is a tragic reminder of the ruthlessness of nature’s power.

With around a handful of deaths and more than 100 serious injuries from lightning in Australia, getting struck by lightning isn’t as much of an anomaly as it seems.

And as storms batter Australia, experts say the wild weather season is only going to get worse.

Why risk becoming one of the 2000 people worldwide killed by lightning, when there are several steps you can take to stay safe?

And with storms forecast to get worse over the coming months, heeding the warning and being careful is the best way to stay safe.

When Lightning Roars, Go Indoors

The best thing you can do to prevent yourself being struck by lightning is simply to stay indoors, according to Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecaster Stephen Stefanac.

And remember the 30/30 rule -  if it takes less than half a minute to hear thunder after seeing a flash, lightning is close enough to pose a threat, and you should get inside as soon as possible.

“Being in open spaces, being the highest object or being near a tree in a park or a high object, there are higher odds of being hit by lightning,” Stefanac said.

Research suggests almost two-thirds of lightning deaths were people who were enjoying outdoor activities, so it’s best to avoid these during a storm. Fishing has proven to be higher risk activity than golf and beach activities, with camping and boating closely following.

The storm battering Sydney on Saturday afternoon. Image: AAP

But if you do happen to be caught outdoors during a thunderstorm, then always avoid tall objects, Stefanac says, particularly those that are conductive like metal.

“If you’re out in an open field, your odds increase of getting hit because you may be one of the highest objects so you’re more exposed," he said.

"And it’s no use sheltering under a tree because the tree itself could get struck by lightning and you could get injured by the tree or lightning going through the trunk.”

But water should also be avoided, Stefanac says, as it acts as a conductor for electricity.

“We do generally know that metal and being in a swimming pool is not a good place to be during a storm," he said.

What about if you’re in the car when lightning strikes? If you are driving, don’t worry -- your car is actually a safer place to be than outdoors, Stefanac says.

“I think that’s safer provided the vehicle is not under a tree, generally safer to be in a vehicle than outdoors from lightning.”

If You’re Indoors

But even if you are inside, there are precautions that should be taken to prevent yourself from becoming a human conductor.

The BOM advises staying clear of windows, doors and skylights, and avoiding landline calls. Avoiding touching brick or concrete, or standing barefoot on these surfaces, is also important.

Avoiding other conductive surfaces such as electrical equipment like computers and even avoiding sinks and baths, as well as plumbing is also recommended, according to the National Weather Service.

And according to Stefanac, lightning does in fact strike the same place twice, so it’s best to avoid places that have been struck by lightning before.

“It will strike the same place twice and lightning will strike the same place many times. People should avoid places which have been struck by lightning before because those places lightning can strike the same place more than twice.”

So next time you hear lightning roar, batten down the hatches and get inside, because the next few months in the lead up to summer we’ll be seeing more storms.

“In the coming months we expect to be forecasting more storms, hence the potential for more lighting,” Stefanac says.