University of Illinois Extension

Lightning Safety


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A safe vehicle is a hard-topped car, SUV, minivan, bus or tractor, (soft-topped convertibles are not safe). If you seek shelter in your vehicle, make sure all the doors are closed and windows rolled up. Do not touch any metal surface. Being stranded outdoors when lightning is striking nearby is scary. Your first and only truly safe choice is to get to a safe building or vehicle. If you are camping, on a bicycle or motorcycle, or enjoying other outdoor activities and cannot get to a safe vehicle or shelter, follow these tips.

  • Do NOT stand under tall isolated trees. The tree may help you stay dry but will increase your risk of being struck by lightning.
  • Do NOT go under partially enclosed buildings.
  • Stay away from tall, isolated objects. Lightning typically strikes the tallest object. That may be you in an open field or clearing.
  • Know the weather forecast. If there is a high chance of thunderstorms, curtail your outdoor activities.
  • Do not place your campsite in an open field on the top of a hill or on a ridge top. Keep your site away from tall isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees. If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low area. A tent offers NO protection from lightning.
  • Stay away from metal objects, such as fences, poles and backpacks. Metal is an excellent conductor. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.

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