A recent death of an Arizona teen from a lightning strike in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area has brought to mind the importance of proper practices during lightning storms. Each year over 20 million strikes hit the ground accounting for nearly 70 deaths per year. While many of us know the correct behavior and techniques during lightning, a safety refresher in this time of increasing summer storms could be the difference between panic and action. Here are the top three things to remember if caught in a lightning storm.  

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1. Count the Distance

In order to gauge the distance you are from a storm, count the seconds between seeing a flash and hearing thunder. Sound travels at 1.6km every 5 seconds. If the flash-bang is 30 seconds or less, avoid danger places or go to a safe place until the storm has passed. If the flash-bang is 5 seconds or less, the storm is less than 2 miles from you and you should immediately find cover and assume lighting position.

2. Dangerous Locations

LOTS of dangerous locations here…

Areas to avoid if a lightning is in your area include:

  • Summits, ridge tops, or exposed locations like meadows or open slopes.
  • Near water of any kind including rivers, lakes, and even indoor plumbing.
  • Near tall objects like trees or rock spires.
  • Inside shallow caves or under rock overhangs. 
  • Near any conductive objects, like metal tools or metal pack frames.

Steering clear of these areas will better you odds of avoiding lightning strikes.

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3. Positions of Safety

Proper practices in a lightning storm include:

  • Disperse your party 20 to 40ft apart.
  • Seek shelter in a stand of uniform height trees, in a crevice or ravine, or deep in a cave.
  • Assume lightning position by squatting on a insulating pad with only your forefoot touching the pad and your heels together. Cover your ears with your palms while tucking your head down. See diagram for reference. 

If you practice these techniques, coupled with adequate preparation and attention to signs of inclement weather, you could reduce the amount or risk posed to you by lightning storms. Stay safe in storms this summer, and enjoy time in the wild!