Never Do This During a Thunderstorm

The obvious thing to do during a thunderstorm is to get inside. Once you're inside, remember these tips to stay safe from lightning.

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Shower head
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Take a shower

In the case that lightning strikes your house during a thunderstorm, taking a shower can put you in danger. If your house gets hit by lightning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirm the bolt can travel through metal water pipes and electrify you in the shower, or even if you wash your hands.

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Trees in a forest
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Stand under a wooden object

John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Business Insider that standing under a tree is considered an “extremely risky” place to be during a thunderstorm. Depending on where you are, trees are likely the tallest object around and will be hit by lightning before you. However, the lightning can jump from the tree to you because humans conduct electricity better than trees. With that said, you should probably avoid standing under or near any other tall wooden objects.

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Backyard patio in the rain
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Stand in the open

Though you might be afraid to stand under a tree when there’s lightning, another thing you should never do during a thunderstorm is stand outside in the open. The CDC advises avoiding open places like porches, gazebos, golf courses, and parks. As soon as you notice thunder or lightning, you need to get inside as quickly as possible.

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Concrete wall
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Touch concrete structures

Concrete walls, floors and buildings tend to have metal wires or bars through them. To keep lightning from striking you, don’t stand near or lean on these concrete structures.

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Things never to do in a thunderstorm
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Lie down

Lightning strikes the tallest object first, so it would make sense to make your body the smallest object around, right? That’s correct, but one thing you should never do during thunderstorms is lie down on the ground. The CDC says that even at 30 metres away, the electric current from lightning that runs on the top of the ground can still be deadly. The best way to make yourself small is to crouch down in a ball-like position with your head tucked and hands covering your ears.

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Rainbow after thunderstorm
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Go outside directly after a thunderstorm

The CDC’s “30-30” rule says that if you’re outside and see lightning, you should start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before getting to 30, then you need to go inside. But when do you come back outside? Keeping with the rule, the CDC recommends waiting at least 30 minutes before heading outside again after a thunderstorm.

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Old-fashioned corded phone
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Use a corded phone

Not many people use corded phones these days, but if you still have one in your home, the CDC says you shouldn’t use it during a thunderstorm. You shouldn’t even use your laptop or other electrical appliances because lightning can travel through electrical systems and zap anything connected to an outlet. Definitely don’t try unplugging devices during a storm either, as that’s also increases your risk of electrocution. The safest way to contact someone during a storm is to use a smartphone—just make sure it’s not plugged into the charger.

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Man with umbrella in the rain
Photo: Dusan Milenkovic/Shutterstock

Waste time removing metal

Metal conducts lightning but won’t necessarily attract it, according to the National Weather Service. If you’re outside during a thunderstorm, don’t spend time trying to remove any metal that you’re wearing on your body, like belts or watches. Your main concern should be getting inside to safety, avoiding metal fences, railing, and bleachers along the way. However, the CDC says that you increase your chances of being directly hit by lightning if you carry a conductor (i.e. something made of metal) above shoulder level.

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Checking pulse of unconscious man
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Be afraid to help someone who got hit

One myth that the National Weather Service has busted is that a lightning victim is electrified and can shock others. Human bodies cannot store electricity, so if you come in contact with someone who got struck by lightning, you won’t be electrocuted. If you find yourself near someone who got hit by lightning, don’t be scared to give him or her first aid help. You could save a life!

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Crowd of people walking in the street
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Stay in a huddled group

Another thing you should never do in a thunderstorm is stay close to your friends or have people near you. By separating from a group of people, you can lower the amount of people who are at risk of being hurt by ground currents and side flashes between people.

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Dog waiting outside
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Leave your pet outside

Keep your animals safe during a thunderstorm by bringing them inside. Having your dog chained to a tree is just as dangerous as if you were to stand under a tree. Doghouses aren’t safe for your pooch either, especially those made out of wood. Being inside is the best option for everyone in your family.

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Raindrops on windowsill
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Stand near a window

You might be inclined to sit near a window during a thunderstorm to witness a bolt of lightning come down from the clouds, but that can be extremely dangerous. Windows and doors that may contain metal parts can conduct electricity, leaving you at risk of being struck if you stand too to them or electrocuted if you touch them. You want to be as close to the inner part of your home as possible during a thunderstorm.

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Ocean before a storm
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Touch anything wet

The National Weather Service explains that water, like metal, doesn’t attract lightning, but it can conduct it. If you touch anything wet or are in water, you put yourself at a high risk of being shocked. Always remove yourself from the pool, lake, or any body of water during a thunderstorm.

Next, find out what happens if you get struck by lightning.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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