National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

"When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!"


June brings the start of meteorological summer, and is an ideal time to promote lightning safety.  Locally, the National Weather Service in Indianapolis is working with our many partners to raise awareness about the dangers of lightning and what individuals can do to stay safe.

Lightning is an underrated killer, responsible for an average of 23 deaths per year across the country (10 year average).

Of all storm-related hazards, only flooding and tornadoes claim more lives per year on average.  Yet, because lightning rarely causes mass destruction of property or mass casualty events, the dangers associated with it are underappreciated.

There are an estimated 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year in the United States, each one capable of seriously injuring or killing anyone unlucky enough to be struck.  Aside from the average of 23 deaths, an average of 500+ lightning injuries are reported each year, although this number is likely underreported because many people do not seek help, and doctors may not record a patient as suffering a lightning injury.  Unfortunately, lightning strike survivors often suffer a variety of long-term physical and mental effects, including mood changes, memory loss, sleep disorders, pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness, irritability, fatigue, muscle spasms, and depression.

How can I keep myself and my family safe from lightning?

The short answer is: easily.  Always keep in mind that if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.  Seek shelter immediately in a sturdy building or, if a building is not available, a hard-topped vehicle with the windows rolled up.  When indoors, refrain from using corded appliances or other equipment or facilities that put you in contact with electrical systems or plumbing.  Stay inside until the storms have moved away AND thunder is no longer audible.  This is very important, since lightning can and occasionally does strike well away from the thunderstorm itself.

What if I am outside and no shelter or vehicle is available?

No place outside is safe during a thunderstorm.  If no safe shelter is available, you can only slightly reduce your risk of being struck by avoiding a common mistake.  Do NOT seek shelter under tall, isolated trees or partially enclosed structures.  This will keep you dry, but will enhance your vulnerability to lightning.  Ensure that you are familiar with the latest weather forecast for your area.  If thunderstorms are possible or expected, curtail your outdoor activities during that time, or ensure that you have constant access to a sturdy, fully enclosed shelter, such as a home or business.

What do I do if someone has been struck by lightning?

If a person is struck by lightning, call 911 and get medical care immediately. Cardiac arrest and irregularities, burns, and nerve damage are common in cases where people are struck by lightning. However, with proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most victims survive a lightning strike, although they may be left with serious and lasting effects. You are in no danger when helping a lightning victim, and you may safely do so immediately.  Lightning victims do not carry a charge.

Where can I learn more about lightning safety?

Check out  Educators, please visit this link for resources, activities, and games to teach children about lightning dangers.

Kids, you can find out how to keep your family safe from lightning dangers at this link.

Counties, communities, organizations, and large event venues can find a lightning safety toolkit here.

To our media partners, public service announcements and other resources, including statistics, stories, and subject matter expert contacts are available at this link.  You are welcome and encouraged to air any of the PSAs and make use of any information from this site.