Avoid the shock – lightning safety tips

Published on: 08 October 2014


With the rainy season upon us, we can be sure to expect thunder and lightning storms across the country. According to the South African Weather Service, 260 people are killed by lightning in South Africa each year.  It’s not always possible to predict where and when lightning will strike, but here are some tips that will hopefully keep you, your family and your possessions safe when there is lightning activity.

Indoor Lightning Safety

Lightning can damage electronics, telephones and other systems in your house that are connected to an electrical outlet. The easiest way to protect your electronic equipment and appliances from possible power surges is to unplug them when you hear the first clap of thunder. Surge protectors can help, but remember that these are not fail-proof if the strike is a powerful one.  

Protect your loved ones by making sure that everyone stays away from all plumbing - including toilets, sinks and taps - as water is a conductor of electricity. Also, stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that may put you in direct contact with electricity.

Outdoor safety

The first rule of keeping safe is to avoid being outside when there is lightning activity. It’s also important to note that lightning often occurs around the edges of a thundercloud, so it doesn’t have to be raining.  So, at the first sign or lighting or thunder, it’s best to head inside a solid building, and stay inside for at least 30 minutes after you heard the last clap of thunder – just to be safe!

You should also avoid the following: 

  • Trees, water, high ground or open fields. Canopy shelters, as well as metal objects such as flag poles and light poles should also be avoided.
  • Using items such as umbrellas or golf clubs or doing activities such as kite-flying.
  • Swimming or standing on a beach, as lightning may strike at the water’s edge.
  • Don’t forget to bring your pets inside. Dog houses and other pet shelters are not suitable protection against lightning strikes.

A car is a safe place to find shelter. Even though a car is made out of metal, lightning will be conducted through the metal of the car and into the ground. It’s the metal roof and sides that protect you, NOT the tyres. Avoid leaning on car doors during a storm, as the electricity travels through the frame.

Lightning is very dangerous and unpredictable. Contradictory to the old saying – lighting can strike twice! If your property gets struck by lightning, call your insurance company as soon as you can to report your claim.