Between the years 2003 and 2012, there were 349 lightning deaths in the United States.
Although houses and other substantial building offer the best protection from lightning, each year many homes across the United States are struck by lightning, according to the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office.
On average, lightning causes about 4400 house fires and 1800 other structural fires each year, some of which are deadly. All totaled, lightning causes nearly $1 billion in damages each year.
There are three main ways lightning enters homes and buildings: (1) a direct strike, (2) through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, and (3) through the ground. Regardless of the method of entrance, once in a structure, the lightning can travel through the electrical and phone wires, the plumbing, and/or radio and television reception systems.
Indoor safety depends on avoiding contact with items that could conduct lightning within the home. Here are some indoor safety tips to follow when a thunderstorm is in the area:
1. Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.
2. Stay off corded phones.
3. Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, take a shower, wash dishes, or do laundry.
4. Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
In case your home is struck by lightning:
• Evacuate your home immediately if you smell smoke and call 911.
• Call your local fire department and, if possible, have them check for hot spots in your walls with thermal imaging equipment.
• Make sure all smoke detectors are powered and operating properly.
• If needed, have a licensed electrician check the wiring in your home.