Practical Guide: 3 Ways to Stay Safe in a Lightning Storm While Camping

Using this practical guide to saying safe in a lightning storm while camping may save your life. Lightning can strike anywhere when a storm breaks out. Depending on where you’re located outdoors, a thunderstorm could be potentially dangerous.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that there is no safe outdoor place during a lightning storm. Their motto is, ‘When thunder roars, go indoors.” If that’s not possible, follow these tips to lessen your risk of lightning related injury.

Tent Tips

Do whatever you can to avoid setting up your tent under an isolated tree, or the tallest one. Stay away from broad open areas, high peaks, ridges, hilltops, elevated terrain, and metal fences. As pleasing as these camping spots might be, if a storm sweeps through, you’re not safe in your tent. Lightning is attracted to higher ground and tall objects. Research shows that lightning can be fatal up to about 30 feet from where a lightning strike hits the ground.

If you hear thunder, that means lightning is within striking distance. Leave your tent for a safer location immediately. Your safest bet is a fully constructed building with plumbing and wiring to ground out a strike, or an all-metal automobile (not a convertible). If you do shelter in a car, avoid touching the external metal of the car or the car parts that make contact with the external metal, such as the steering wheel or door handle.

If you’re in the backcountry and there are no buildings, move to lower ground and avoid the things that attract lightning. Also, if you’re camping in an open area, set up in a valley, ravine, or other low area.

Unsafe Structures and Buildings

Some structures you may encounter while camping are unsafe, such as picnic shelters and outhouses. The shelters have open sides and lack a method to ground lighting strikes. Outhouses don’t have the wiring or plumbing to ground the lightning strike.

Seek shelter in a low-lying area. Steer clear of tall objects like trees, electric poles, wires, and fences. It’s also advised you keep your distance from wet items, ropes, metal objects, and water. While these things don’t attract lightning, they’re prime conductors of electricity! The current from a lighting flash has the ability to travel far distances.

Wait Until it’s Safe To Go Back

Once the thunderstorm is over, wait at least 30 minutes before returning to your camping area or resuming your hike. Stay in a safe location for 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

A large number of people have been killed because they didn’t wait long enough after the storm before resuming outdoor activities. Similarly, many people were struck by lightning because they did not seek shelter soon enough.

If in a Group, Spread Out

If you’re camping in a group, don’t huddle together even though that may be comforting. Spread out to avoid the lightning’s current traveling between people.

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