NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Plan Ahead and Prepare: Lightning Safety

While getting ready for my next backpacking adventure this weekend I took a look at NOAA’s weather forecast for the area. Not ideal…

I figured I should brush up on what to do if caught in a thunderstorm in the middle of the wilderness. I took a look at NOLS Backcountry Lightning Safety Guidelines by John Gookin, a NOLS Curriculum Manager. In an effort to finally retain some lightning safety, I’ve just picked out a few highlights. Take a closer look at Gookin’s full paper for some great information about how lightning strikes, reasoning behind safety suggestions, and more.

- Lightning tends to hit elevated objects: mountain tops, trees, a boat in water; so get low!
- Lone trees are especially dangerous. Also stay away from all tree trunks, they may send out surface arcs.
- If you feel your hair standing on end a lightning strike is imminent, spread out and assume the lightning position.
- Lightning position: squat with your feet together and your arms wrapped around your legs. It’s been debated whether squatting on your sleeping pad provides any additional protection, but I think the important part is to assume the position and get away from metal objects - like that metal rod in my backpack!
- If you’re in a group, spread out at 50 foot intervals – decreasing the likelihood that one strike will take out multiple people.
- A note for night time thunderstorms: if your tent is in “safer terrain” at least assume the lightning position, if it is in an exposed location get out and find a safer location until the storm passes.

“There are things you can do to reduce risk during a thunderstorm, but you can never get as safe as you could be in town,” says Gookin.

But what’s the fun in that?

-Happy (and safe!),

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