7 top tips to stay safe in a thunderstorm

Keep yourself and others safe when walking in thunder and lightning

Thunderstorms are a natural hazard that can happen at any time of the year in Great Britain.  So it’s good to know what to do if you encounter a thunder and lightning whilst out walking.  

You can reduce the risk of harm to yourself and others by following these tips. 


1. Plan ahead 

Always check the weather forecast before starting a walk via a service such as the Met Office or the Mountain Weather Information Service. If storms are forecast, consider cancelling your walk.  Or chose a route with low elevation on less exposed ground. Be especially cautious of potential storms in the summer months which can involve hail, gusty winds and torrential downpours. 


2.  Monitor the weather 

Even the best weather may not accurately predict the exact time and place a storm will hit. Keep an eye on the build-up of clouds.  If the clouds start to become menacing, it’s time to review your plans. On warm days the danger will increase as the heat builds through the day. 


3. Check the distance   

As a storm approaches, you can estimate its distance from your location by measuring the time between lightning flashes and the rumble of thunder. Lighting appears almost simultaneously, while thunder travels at 1 km per 3 seconds. So, a three-second delay between lightning and thunder means that the storm is about 1 km away; a six-second delay means that the storm is about 2 km away. 


4. Get to low ground  

If you get caught in a storm, try to put higher ground between you and the storm. Lightning strikes are more frequent on summits because lightning takes the shortest route to earth. The higher and more exposed you are, the greater the danger. Only descend if it’s safe to do so; scrambling quickly on uneven terrain can be particularly hazardous in rainfall. 


5. Find a safe place 

It’s safest to find the lowest open ground rather than taking shelter in caves or under trees as the lightning takes the quickest route to the ground.  


6. Minimise contact with the ground and any conducting objects  

Crouch or sit on the ground, ideally on top of an insulating material such as a rucksack or sleeping mat.  Put your hands on your knees rather than touching the ground. Although they don’t significantly increase the risk of attracting a strike, it’s wise to lay metal items, like walking poles, aside until the storm passes.  Stay clear of metal fences. If you are in a group, keep a space between you and others. 

7. Help others  

It is safe to touch someone who has been struck by lightning and provide them with CPR or First Aid if it is needed. Anyone who is struck by lightning should always seek medical advice as soon as possible after the event. 

Sheep grazing on a hill


It’s important to stay safe while out walking. Read our guidance on how to be prepared for all situations.  

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