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How to avoid lightning strikes when you travel

Did you know that Malaysia has the third highest lightning activity in the world?

According to US National Lightning Safety Institute records, Malaysia recorded an average of 180 to 260 thunderstorm days a year, after Indonesia (322) and Columbia (275 to 320).

If you are living or travelling to these countries (or anywhere else), here are ways to avoid getting hit by lightning:

When you are indoors(!)
You still need to take precautions when you stay indoors when lightning strikes.

 

When a thunderstorm hits, get yourself under some shelter. Once inside, avoid using corded phones or electrical appliances.

Plus, the US National Weather Service urges the public to avoid showering during a lightning storm because a bolt might strike the water pipes and electrify your bathroom.

Even MythBusters, an Australian-American science television programme, proved that showering during a thunderstorm might not be a good idea.

So it doesn’t matter how filthy or stinky you are, do not wash your hands or take a shower.

The rainy weather might look beautiful for some but it is advisable to stay away from the windows.

When you are outdoors
Avoid the beach during thunderstorm. Credits: Pexels

Lightning can strike even when you think you are some distance away from the thunderstorm, so as soon as you hear a distant rumble, that’s when you should scramble for safety.

Even if there aren’t any in sight, never use a cliff or rocks for shelter. The same goes for trees.

What if you get caught in a thunderstorm while surrounded by trees? The best thing you can do is to get far from any trunks and avoid low-hanging branches.

Additionally, get as far as you can from street lamps, wire fences or power lines. These tall, metal objects attract lightnings like flies attracted to lights. You do not want to go near them.

When you are in open spaces
Check out the weather forecast before you go out. Credits: Pexels

In March 2018, it was reported that a lightning strike on a Penang beach instantly killed a man while injuring another. This is not an isolated case. There have been many reports of lightning strikes in open spaces like the beach all around the world.

Safety experts advise the public to stay away from water including ocean, lakes and rivers because water is a conductor of electricity.

If you’re in a group of people in an open space stuck in a thunderstorm during a futsal match for example, spread out so that everyone is at least three meters away from each other. This is to avoid any live currents travelling between you.

Three people were struck by lightning during in a futsal match in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month. Unfortunately one of the three died in the hospital a week after the incident.

For safety precaution, crouch down in a ball – low to the ground – but make sure to make as little contact with the ground as possible. (Which means no lying flat on the ground during a thunderstorm.)

When you are planning your travel itinerary

As much as you want to make full use of your time during travelling, always remember that safety comes first.

Check the weather forecast before making any plans. If a thunderstorm is on its way, ditch the park, beach, river, trekking trail, golf course and any sports in open fields.

Just relax and stay indoor with a good book, a cup of cocoa… or maybe a glass of wine.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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