Struck By Lightning: What To Do
According to Weather.gov, lightning kills an average of 49 people each year in the United States and hundreds more are injured. Some survivors suffer lifelong neurological damage. It’s not always possible to know exactly how a victim has been struck, but here is a list of ways that lightning strikes its victims.
- Direct Strike–A person struck directly by lightning becomes a part of the main lightning discharge channel.
- Side Flash—A side flash (also called a side splash) occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from the taller object to the victim.
- Ground Current—When lightning strikes a tree or other object, much of the energy travels outward from the strike in and along the ground surface.
- Conduction–Lightning can travel long distances in wires or other metal surfaces, with anyone in contact with anything connected to metal wires, plumbing, or metal surfaces that extend outside at risk.
- Streamers—While not as common as the other types of lightning injuries, people caught in “streamers” are at risk of being killed or injured by lightning.
Any of these types of strikes can be deadly. Immediate medical attention, including calling 911, starting CPR, and using an AED, may be critically important to keep the person alive until more advanced medical care arrives.
WHN TIP – You Can Touch a Lightning Victim: People struck by lightning don’t carry any electrical charge that can shock other people. They can be handled safely.
- Medical attention is needed as quickly as possible.
- You or someone else should call 911 or your local emergency medical services (EMS) number.
- Give first aid.
- If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing.
- If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR.
- If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries.
- Check for burns in two places: where the lightning struck the person and where the electricity left their body.
Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing or eyesight.
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