MYTH: Lightning never strikes twice in the same place.
FACT: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit nearly 100 times a year.
MYTH: If it’s not raining and there are no clouds directly overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
FACT: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of a thunderstorm, far outside the cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the storm.
MYTH: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
FACT: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and sides that protect you, NOT the tires. Convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open shelled recreational vehicles, and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. Avoid leaning on car doors during a storm, as the electricity travels through the frame.
MYTH: The victim of a lightning strike is electrified. If you touch them, you’ll be electrocuted.
FACT: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to give first aid to a lightning victim. Note: do NOT touch someone who is in contact with a live electrical source, such as a downed power line.
image licensed IBHS Creative Commons
MYTH: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.
FACT: Being under a tree is the second leading cause of lightning injuries and deaths. Better to get wet than fried!
MYTH: If you are in a house, you are 100% safe from lightning.
FACT: Your home is mostly safe, provided you avoid using anything in it that may conduct electricity. Don’t use or touch corded land line phones, appliances, electronics, wiring, metal door or window frames, or plumbing fixtures. Do not use your sink, shower, or toilet during a storm if you can possibly avoid it. On rare occasions older windows can allow lightning to come in through the cracks, but the greater dangers with windows are wind and broken glass. Stay away from windows!
MYTH: If a thunderstorm is approaching while you’re playing a game outside, it’s okay to finish before seeking shelter.
FACT: Many lightning casualties occur because people don’t seek shelter soon enough. Seek proper shelter immediately if you hear thunder or see lightning. No game is worth death or lifelong injuries.
MYTH: Metal structures attract lightning. Wearing metal on your body (jewelry, cell phones, watches, etc.) attracts lightning to you.
FACT: Metal has no effect on where lightning strikes. The real criteria are how tall, pointed, and isolated a location is. Mountains are stone and mineral and they get struck by lightning all the time. Don’t waste time removing metal accessories when lightning is near, just get to shelter quickly. Note: do NOT touch metal fences or rails, as they can still conduct electricity.
MYTH: If you’re trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, you should squat or lie flat on the ground.
FACT: Staying low to the ground will not protect you from a deadly ground current; in fact, it can put you in greater danger. Don’t stop for lightning, just keep moving toward shelter.