DO watch out during thunderstorms. The lightning can injure you badly and even kill you.
DO find a safe place immediately if lightning and thunder comes near. If you count less than 10 seconds between seeing lightning and hearing thunder, it is already very dangerous to remain exposed to it outside. You are safe inside a motor car, or a house or building, but not in huts, tents or shelters unless they provided with metal protection against lightning.
DO NOT shelter close to the trunk of a tree, or any isolated pole, as these attract lightning. On the other hand they will protect you if you sit down at a distance away from them of not more than about half their height. This is what is known as being safe within the so called 45 degree cone of protection of the pole or tree.
DO make sure that your houses or huts with thatched of non-metallic roofs, are properly protected from lightning according to the lightning protection codes of practice published by the South African Bureau of Standards or other national bodies. Lightning has killed many people in hitting them either directly or by setting them on fire.
DO NOT ride horses motorcycles, tractors or bicycles, or even walk, when a thunder storm is approaching unless you can reach a place of safety within minutes. If not, rather dismount and sit down keeping a low profile until the storm is over. You are also in danger sitting on wagons or carts that have no metal protection for you on them.
DO NOT touch metal fences or gates for more than the time you need to pass through them. On the other hand you will be protected sitting directly underneath the overhead wires of an over head power line.
DO NOT swim when lightning threatens, and if you are in an open boat without its own lightning protection , make for dry land if this is possible within minutes, otherwise sit or lie down in the boat until the storm is over.
DO NOT carry golf clubs, garden implements or fire arms are shoulder height , or hoist an umbrella, while seeking shelter from an approaching thunderstorm.
DO call for help immediately, if any of your companions are struck by lightning and are unconscious, and then try to revive them by all means possible. You should learn how to do this if you ever intend to go camping in the thunderstorm season, as you could thus save lives.
DO NOT believe that some persons (Sangomas) can make lightning hit where they want it. When a down coming lightning leader approaches the ground, it causes electric streamers to start flowing upwards from protruding objects like trees, poles or bushes, or even stone boulders and including people, and if one of these streamers reaches the lightning leader, before it reaches the ground, it will deviate and strike that particular object.
DO seek advice on any aspect of lightning protection not covered above, or upon which more detailed information is required. Contact the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers at 011 487 3003 who can provide you with guidance on this subject.
ARTICLE CREDITS: Holle, R. L.; Zhang, D. “So You Think You Know Lightning?”. Vaisala 2017. vaisala.com/lightning
Anderson, R.B. Smart Lightning Safety Do’s and Don’ts. SAIEE booklet. Sponsored by Eskom.