Homeland Security and Emergency Services

If You Are Outdoors

  • Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of lightning, or increasing wind, which may be signs of an approaching thunderstorm.
  • Listen for the sound of thunder. Even when the sky looks blue and clear, be cautious. Lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles. If you can hear thunder, go to a safe shelter immediately.
  • When lightning is seen or thunder is heard, or when dark clouds are observed, postpone activities promptly. Don't wait for rain. Lightning often strikes as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. Go quickly inside a completely enclosed building. If no enclosed building is convenient, get inside a hard-topped all-metal vehicle.
  • The principle lightning safety guide is the 30-30 rule. The first 30 represents 30 seconds. If the time between when you see the flash and hear the thunder is 30 seconds or less, the lightning is close enough to hit you. If you haven't already, seek shelter immediately. The second 30 stands for 30 minutes. After the last flash of lightning, wait 30 minutes before leaving your shelter.
  • If you see or hear a thunderstorm coming or your hair stands on end, immediately stop your activity, suspend your game or practice, and instruct everyone to go inside a sturdy building or car.
  • Be the lowest point. Lightning hits the tallest object. In the mountains if you are above treeline, you ARE the highest object around. Quickly get below treeline and get into a grove of small trees. Don't be the second tallest object during a lightning storm! Crouch down if you are in an exposed area.
  • If you cant get to a shelter, stay away from trees. If there is no shelter, crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from a tree as it is tall.
  • Avoid leaning against vehicles. Get off bicycles and motorcycles.
  • Get out of the water... off the beach and out of small boats or canoes. If caught in a boat, crouch down in the center of the boat away from metal hardware. Avoid standing in puddles of water, even if wearing rubber boots.
  • Avoid metal! Drop metal backpacks and stay away from clothes lines, fences, and exposed sheds. Don't hold on to metal items such golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets or tools. Large metal objects can conduct lightning. Small metal objects can cause burns.
  • Move away from a group of people. Stay several yards away from other people. Don't share a bleacher bench or huddle in a group.