Up to a million times more powerful than household current, lightning bolts can be deadly. A lightning bolt can cause cardiac arrest when the current enters the body. It can also lead to organ damage and burns, sometimes with long-term effects such as memory loss, dizziness and other life-altering ailments. It is important to note that victims will not carry an electric charge and can be safely handled. Call 911. If breathing has stopped, administer cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Each year in Canada, lightning can cause as many as 10 deaths and 164 injuries. Direct strikes are responsible for five per cent of lightning-related deaths and injuries. Ground current and side flash account for 60 to 80 per cent of lightning-related injuries and deaths. A ground current is when lightning hits the ground, spreads out and sends a current through a victim. Side splash occurs when lightning hits a tall object, travels partly down the object and then jumps to a nearby victim.
If You Are Caught Outdoors:
- Seek shelter - a safe location is a fully enclosed building. Sheds, picnic shelters, tents or covered porches do NOT protect you from lightning.
- If you are in your vehicle, stay in your vehicle. Park off the road away from trees and power lines.
- Keep a safe distance from tall objects, such as trees, hilltops, and telephone poles.
- Stay away from water. Don't go boating or swimming if a storm is near. Lightning can strike the water and travel some distance from its point of contact.
- Stay away from open fields. Seek shelter in low-lying areas such as valleys, ditches and depressions but be aware of flooding.
- If you do get caught in the woods, stay away from isolated trees and the edge of the forest. Find the lowest growth of small trees or bushes to crouch down in and wait out the storm.
If You Are Indoors:
- Keep away from doors, windows, fireplaces, and anything that will conduct electricity, such as radiators, stoves, sinks, and metal pipes.
- Keep as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
- Don't take a shower or a bath.
- Before the storm hits, disconnect electrical appliances including radios and television sets. Do not touch them during the storm.
- Don't go outside unless absolutely necessary.
- Don't handle electrical equipment or telephones. Use battery operated appliances only.
(Source: Environment Canada)