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Lightning - Detection & Finding Outdoor Shelter

The number of people injured or killed by Lightning is relatively low in the Outdoors compared to those that get hit in the cities. In the outdoors, it is mostly in high mountain areas and peaks that form a Lightning threat. Here are some guidelines on how to avoid being struck by Lightning:

Predicting and Locating a Lightning Storm

Lightning - Detection & Finding Outdoor Shelter Lightning storms are generally predictable. In general, you can prevent being caught in one by properly preparing your Hiking Trip and checking the Weather Conditions. A Lightning storm is caused by the electrical charge generated by water molecules rubbing against each other in the clouds. This electrical charge can sometimes be sensed upfront by a tingling sensation on the skin and the feeling of your hair standing up straight.

If you see Lightning flashes and hear thunder, you can determine the distance of a Lightning strike by counting the number of seconds between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder. Divide this number of seconds by 5 to get the distance in miles.

What to do in a Lightning Storm

  • In general, you do not want to be the highest available pathway for Lightning so remain low and make sure that other objects are an easier target. If you are going to take shelter near a potential Lightning rod, make sure that you are not struck through it so keep a safe distance and avoid wet surfaces that will transfer the discharge to you.
  • Get off and stay away from mountain peaks, ridges, and steep inclines. Look for flat ledges or gentler slopes.
  • Find shelter under any potential Lightning rod. Do not stand near its base but do not move farther away than its height.
  • If you have something that could act like an insulator (your backpack, coiled up rope, etc), sit on it with your feet off the ground.
  • If you have no insulator, make a crouching position with only your feet touching the surface.
  • If you are in an open field with nothing that could act like a pinnacle, lie down flat on the ground with your arms spread out.
  • Only find shelter in a Cave if it is deep and dry. Do not stand directly under the cave's overhang.

First Aid for Lightning Victims


People struck by Lightning have received a very severe electrical shock and will probably be burned. However, they are not electrically charged so it is safe to touch and tend to them. The electrical discharge would have caused a cardiac arrest. Apply proper CPR and prioritize on getting their breathing and blood circulation going again before attending to their burns. If you are in a group then it is likely that multiple people have been injured. Check all for vital signs and prioritize those who are showing no signs of breathing and blood circulation.


These are several things you need to know about Lightning. Know what to do in case there is a Lightning Storm in the area.

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