Lightning Safety: Definition of a Safe Enclosed Building

An example of an “enclosed building” which is safe to be in during lightning activity is a building which is typically occupied by people on a permanent basis. This includes such buildings as a private residence, schools, office buildings or a shopping center.

Some safety tips once inside an enclosed building:

Do not use a phone which is connected to a cord, unless it is an emergency. Many times in the past lightning has struck a nearby telephone pole (or the building directly), and caused serious injury or death to the person who was talking on a corded phone. In addition, static caused by a nearby lightning flash has been known to cause ear injuries to people on corded phones. (NOTE: cordless phones and battery operated cell phones are safe to use during lightning activity. It is not known if static caused by lightning on cordless/cell phones can cause injury).

Do not operate electronic equipment which is "plugged in" to the electrical/cable/telephone wiring system. This includes such items as TVs and computers. Electronics which are "plugged in" are connected to wiring which comes into the building from the outside. Lightning can strike the building or an outside telephone pole, and the current can come into the building.

Do not take a shower or bath during lightning activity. Get out of pools (indoors or outdoors). Stay away from any plumbing fixtures (sinks, etc.)

Why are buildings such as private residence, a school, an office building or a shopping center safe during lightning activity? The reason is due to the wiring and plumbing within the building. If lightning should strike these types of buildings (or an outside telephone pole), the electrical current from the flash will typically travel through the wiring and/or the plumbing (metal pipes/water), and then into the ground. This is why it is so important to stay away from plumbing (showers, sinks tubs, hot tubs, etc) and electronic equipment (TVs, radios, corded telephones, etc, or anything that is "plugged in" to the electrical wiring, telephone wiring or cable system).

Obviously, lightning can cause serious damage to electronics in a home which is affected by a lightning flash. This is why it is important to have a proper lightning protection system connected to your electronic equipment. The American Meteorological Society has very good information about protecting your home from lightning. Click here to go to this web site.

Buildings which are NOT safe during lightning activity

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