Safety Tips for Hikers During a Lightning Storm

The following are tips for hikers to follow if they are caught in a lightning storm while hiking:

  • If storms are expected, be vigilant. Watch distant clouds for lightning and listen for thunder. Determine the distance of lightning. If you see a lightning flash, count the seconds until you hear thunder. Divide the number of seconds by 5 to approximate the distance in miles. If it is less than 30 seconds, you need to take quick action.
  • Do NOT seek shelter under a picnic shelter, lone tree, tent or other object to keep you dry. Come down from high places. Seek a valley or depression in the terrain and/or in a low stand of trees.
  • Put on your raingear and remove your backpack. If you have a metal frame pack or hiking poles, leave it 100 feet away.
  • Keep a distance of about 100 feet apart from other hikers to minimize the possibility of multiple casualties from a single strike.
  • Become a small, round target to minimize your contact with the ground and minimize your height. Crouching down on the balls of your feet placed close together with your head tucked down is the recommended position.
  • Cover your ears and close your eyes to protect from the intense noise and light of nearby strikes.
  • Immediately after a close strike, do a headcount of everyone in your party having them call back to you that they are ok. If someone does not respond, some on should go to their location, while everyone else stays spread out since there is still danger of additional strikes.
  • If there are multiple victims, prioritize care needed. A victim that is not breathing is highest priority. There is a relatively good chance of reviving a lightning victim with CPR.
  • Check for and give first aid for burns. Check around jewelry, buckles, and fingers and toes especially. Treat for shock, keeping the victim warm and calm.

For more information, see Lightning – safety from strikes and storms when hiking (