When Lightning Strikes … Making Life-Saving Decisions at Lightning Speed (part 2)

Lightning strike part 2

While wind surfing

There is absolutely no protection on a surfboard. Head for the shore at the first sign of an imminent thunderstorm and seek shelter.  If there is no time left, put down the mast and crouch down on the surfboard.  This does not eliminate the danger however, it is considerably reduced.

In open water

Swimming or wading through water during a thunderstorm means you are placing your life at risk. A strike into the water may be deadly or may paralyse up to 10 metres from the point of strike.  Therefore leave the water right away and take cover at the first sign of lightning and thunder.


NOTE!  Surfing and swimming during a thunderstorm means you are placing your life at risk!

Onboard a boat

Boats are vulnerable to lightning strikes since they present exposed points on the plain water surface.  Keep off the deck and do not fish during a thunderstorm.  Go into the boat, crouch down and do not touch the rig or any other metal objects.


NOTE!  Install a lightning protection system on your boat.  For more detailed information, please do not hesitate to contact us at hello@greymattersglobal.com.

Riding and bicycle

If on a bicycle or motorcycle, stop riding, seek shelter (for example under a bridge) or crouch down at a distance of 1m, or even better 3 m, from your vehicle.

lightning strikes riding a bicycle

Inside a car

Representing a Faraday cage, metal car bodies provide entire protection. In case of heavy rain or rolls of thunder, it is advisable to stop at the next possible place or wait until the thunderstorm has passed to avoid being blinded by the light and losing control.

Inside an airplane

Normally nothing happens if an aircraft is struck by lightning on the ground or even in the air since an aircraft also is a Faraday cage.  However, the occurring turbulences are much more dangerous than the lightning flash itself which is why experienced pilots try to avoid flying through thunderstorm cells.

lightning strikes driving a car

NOTE!  Do not leave your car if between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder is less than 15 seconds.


In the event of a lightning strike, the external lightning protection system safely discharges the lightning current to the ground and protects your home from fire.  Lightning protection systems must be installed by qualified personnel to make sure they are installed conformant with the latest standards.  Reliable lightning protection is only assured if the external lightning protection system is combined with an equipotential bonding system and surge protective devices to form a comprehensive protection system.

lightning strikes while indoors

GreyMatters can advise on Surge protective solutions to prevent electrical devices and electronic systems from being damaged or destroyed by lightning.

Reference and Images:  DEHN + SOHNE (2012) “When Lightning Strikes, What to do during a Thunderstorm”

Image:  Huntington Beach in Bay Village, Ohio Photograph by James Larkin

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