Facts about lightning and how to stay safe

Is it safe to use a telephone in a thunderstorm?

Using a corded telephone is not advisable as a current can travel along the telephone line. Using a cellphone is safe but if a lightning strike occurs nearby, the noise that is produced from the lightning strike could damage your eardrums.

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Are my computers and other electronics safe?

If your computer is directly connected to a power source and/or an internet feed, you and your equipment are not safe. To prevent damage it is prudent to turn off your computer and disconnect it from its power source. You can safely use a laptop as long you are not using it connected to a power source.

Will I be protected wearing rubber boots?

No. The thin layer of rubber (1 centimetre or less) on your boots is not enough to withstand temperatures a lightning strike produces.

Doesn’t the rubber in a ­vehicle’s tires protect people from lightning?

No. A car’s tires do not help insulate the vehicle. Lightning travels over the vehicle’s metal frame, protecting everyone inside. It is known as the Faraday Cage effect. Occupants are safe as long as they are not touching anything metal or electrical inside the vehicle.

How can you tell how far a lightning strike is?

Light travels at 300,000 km/sec whereas sound travels at 0.3 km/sec. After the flash of lightning, begin counting off the seconds until the thunder is heard. Divide the number by three to arrive at the distance (for example: If the interval is 15 seconds, you divide it by three, which means the lightning strike is five kilometres away).

What are my chances of getting struck by lightning?

Direct strikes are responsible for only five per cent of ­lightning-related deaths and injuries. The majority (60 to 80 per cent) of lightning-related injuries and deaths are caused by indirect lightning strikes. One is by a ground current. It occurs when lightning hits the ground and the electricity travels through the ground until it encounters an object.

The other is known as a side flash. It occurs when lightning hits a tall object, travels partly down it, then jumps to a nearby victim (such as a person sheltering under a tree).

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