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When lightning approaches, your immediate priority must be to reduce your risk of getting hit.

Try this quiz

You and your family are camping. As you are preparing dinner on the camp stove, you hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. You look around and see that your tent nearby and a large picnic shelter is just down the trail. Your car is about ¼ of a mile away, parked at the trailhead. What should you and your family do?


In this case, the smartest thing to do is to round up your family and get into your car. The tent is not a safe place to be, as it offers NO protection from a lightning strike. The picnic shelter is also not a safe location. Both the tent and picnic shelter will keep you dry…but they offer NO protection from a lightning flash. It is best to remain in your vehicle for about 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder is heard.

More tips

  • If you are caught above the tree line when a storm approaches, descend quickly. Avoid isolated trees. It is better to run into a forest.
  • Electric storms can also develop in the middle of the night. To lower your odds, don't pitch your tent near the tallest trees in the vicinity.
  • Hikers, golfers, and others should run into a forest if a shelter or car is not nearby.
  • Drop metal objects like golf clubs, tennis rackets, umbrellas, and packs with internal or external metal frames.
  • Get off bicycles, motorcycles, horses, and golf carts. Metal bleachers at sports events, metal fences, and utility poles are also to be avoided.
  • If you are caught in an open field, seek a low spot. Crouch with your feet together and head low. Do not lie flat!
  • Don't sit or lie down, because these positions provide much more contact with the ground, providing a wider path for lightning to follow. If you are with a group and the threat of lightning is high, spread out at least 15 feet apart to minimize the chance of everybody getting hit (see "If Someone Is Struck").
  • Don't return to an open area too soon. People have been struck by lightning near the end of a storm, which is still a dangerous time.
  • Swimmers, anglers, and boaters should get off lakes or rivers and seek shelter when storms approach. Drop any fishing rods. Boaters who cannot get off the water before the storm hits should crouch low.
  • If someone is struck

    People who have been hit by lightning carry no electric charge and can be safely tended to. Also, victims who appear dead can often be revived. If the person is not breathing, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If a pulse is absent as well and you know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), begin CPR. Stay with the victim until help arrives. (See the USDA Forest Service Recreational Activities page.

    For more Information on lightning safety visit the National Weather Service Lightning Saftey page.