FAQ: How Dangerous is Lightning? What Precautions Should I Take?

How dangerous is lightning? What precautions should I take? Here's all you need to know.

2 min read
FAQ: How Dangerous is Lightning? What Precautions Should I Take?

At least 74 people were killed due to lightning strikes in three different cities between 11-12 July, making it one of the worst such disasters in the recent past.

While 41 people lost their lives in Uttar Pradesh, 11 people lost their lives in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

How dangerous is lightning? What precautions should I take? Here's all you need to know.


Does lightning kill?

Yes, it is more common than we actually realise. The Ministry of Home Affairs over the years has consistently stated that lightning is the biggest natural disaster-linked killer in India.

Take the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data from 2019 shows that there were 8,146 deaths due to forces of nature. Of those, a whopping 35.3 percent was due to lightning.

Bihar (400), Madhya Pradesh (400), Jharkhand (334) and Uttar Pradesh (321) reported the maximum number of victims under lightning in 2019.

Is lightning common in a place like India?

A 2019 analysis by Skymet – a private weather company – showed that India witnesses about two crore lightnings per year and five states account for half if it – making it much more common.


Does lightning hit people directly?

To put it in simple words, lightning is a very rapid and massive discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface. While it rarely hits people directly, when it does, it is most likely to be fatal.

People are more likely to be struck by 'ground currents' – where the electrical energy, after hitting an object such as a tree or building, spreads on the ground for some distance resulting in people receiving the current.

How can I protect myself from a lightning strike?

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Go indoors and take shelter in an enclosed space like home, offices, shopping centres etc.

Remember the 30-30 rule: after you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

If the thunderstorm is heavy, avoid using electronic equipment of all types. Also, avoid contact with water as lightning can travel through plumbing.


But, what if I do not find a closed indoor space?

According to the CDC, if you are caught in an open area:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges, or peaks.

  • Never lie flat on the ground. Crouch down in a ball-like position with your head tucked and hands over your ears so that you are down low with minimal contact with the ground.

  • Never shelter under an isolated tree.

  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.

  • Immediately get out of and away from ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water.

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