Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
The following tips may help a person avoid being struck by lightning. Lightning may occur well in front of or behind a thunderstorm.
Avoid being outside in open spaces during thunderstorms. If you hear thunder, you are in range for a lightning strike. You need to seek shelter immediately if you are outside. Lightning can travel 10-12 miles ahead of a storm and seem to come out of a clear blue sky.
Take cover from storms, avoiding the highest elevation areas and tall objects.
Do not carry or hold tall metal objects during thunderstorms. Drop any golf clubs, fishing poles, or baseball bats. Remove metal objects such as a baseball helmet.
If lightning has struck the immediate area, remember that lightning can strike the same place twice.
If you cannot find shelter, crouch down in a catcher's stance. Put your hands on your knees or place them over your ears to protect against hearing damage from thunder. If other people are with you, stay 15 feet apart.
A fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car or school bus can be a good shelter. Close all windows and do not touch anything metal connected to the vehicle. A golf cart is not a suitable shelter. Heavy equipment operators may stay inside the machine's closed canopy, but do not step out to seek shelter.
Even if you are inside a building, close all windows and stay away from them. Do not use the land-line telephone or electrical appliances including computers. Lightning may strike outside lines and travel inside.
Wait at least 30 minutes after the last observed lightning strike or thunder before you venture outside your sheltered area.
The simple safety slogan of the National Lightning Safety Institute is this: If you can see it (lightning), flee it (take shelter). If you can hear it (thunder), clear it (stop your activities).
Over the last century, records for environmental injuries and mortality indicate that lightning has consistently been one of the top 3 environment-related causes of death and the second most common storm-related cause of death, exceeded only by flash floods.