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The skies grow dark, it’s humid and sticky, there are bright flashes in the sky followed by rumbling. It’s storm season. If you find yourself on a golf course, a beach or out in the open when a storm suddenly hits, you need to think quickly.

Lightning is one of the most dangerous and frequently encountered weather hazards in Australia. It is estimated there are five (5) to ten (10) deaths and over one hundred (100) severe injuries caused by lightning every year.

According to Julie Evans, senior meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, if the time between when you see a flash of lightning and hear thunder is less than 30 seconds, your chances of being stuck by lightning are high. One way of determining how close lightning is to you is to count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and sound of thunder. For every three (3) seconds, the lightning is one kilometre away. Again, if the time is within thirty (30) seconds which means the lightning is as little as ten (10) kilometres away, you should find immediate shelter.

Australia Wide First Aid encourages you to find solid shelter during a storm. This does not include a tree. Try and find shelter within a building, bus shelter or car and avoid water and objects that conduct electricity. This includes:

  • Golf Clubs
  • Umbrellas
  • Metal Fences
  • Trees
  • Puddles/Pools of Water

If you’re unable to find safe shelter, crouch down in the open, feet together with your head tucked down towards your chest. You should aim to make yourself as small as you can. Laying down flat on the ground increases your total body surface area, which also increases your chance of getting struck by lightning.

Evans suggests that you should wait approximately 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning before you leave your shelter. More than half of lightning deaths occur once the storm has passed.

Did You Know?

Australia Wide First Aid provides first aid and CPR training around Australia. Out training locations include:

What Happens If I Am Struck By Lightning?

The effects of being struck by lightning ranges from minor to life-threatening. According to guidelines published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, 90 per cent of people struck by lightning survive, but they commonly suffer permanent after-effects and disabilities.

Short term effects can include:

  • Impaired Eyesightlightning_small
  • Ear Ringing
  • Ruptured Ear Drums
  • Loss of Hearing
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Severe Electrical Shock
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • External Burns to the Skin
  • Internal burns to Organs and Tissues
  • Burnt Trauma (from falling)
  • In severe cases, Cardiac Arrest can occur

Long term effects include:lightning_australia

  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Memory Dysfunction
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal Gait (cannot walk or balance properly)
  • Joint Stiffness
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Dry Eyes


How To Respond If Someone Else Is Struck By Lightning?

If someone you are with is struck by lightning, dial 000 and seek immediate medical attention. Please be aware that the victim will not retain an electrical charge, so it is safe to touch them. The person stuck may be unconscious, disorientated, or unable to speak. The victim also may have stopped breathing. If they are not breathing, begin DRSABCD immediately and continue until medical attention arrives. If the victim is burnt or bleeding, apply appropriate first aid.

Lightning Facts:

  • Lightning can warm the air by 27,700 degrees Celsius, five times hotter than the surface of the sun
  • A strike can contain a hundred million electrical volts
  • If your hair stands up on the end of your head, it could indicate positive charges are rising through you. If so, seek immediate shelter
  • Thunder is caused by the expansion of rapidly heated air
  • Lightning from the top of a thunderstorm cloud carries a large positive charge. This is known as positive lightning
  • Positive lightning can strike as far as 16 kilometres from a storm.

Lightning Myths (do not believe):

  • Lightning never strikes the same place twice
  • A lightning victim shouldn’t be touched because you could become electrocuted
  • You should shelter under a tree as it is safe
  • Structures with metal or jewellery attract lightning.

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