In case of lightning and thunderstorms

As a general rule, you have to take into account the speed with which the storm clouds develop and grow, leading the storm to reach its maximum intensity without leaving much time to find shelter.


Check the weather conditions during the planning phase of an outdoor activity, such as a picnic, a day dedicated to fishing or bathing, an excursion or a mountaineering route, by reading in advance the forecast bulletins issued by the competent weather offices, which also indicate, among other things, whether the situation will be more or less favorable to the emergence of thunderstorms in the area and on the day of interest.

In the majority of cases, the location and timing of these phenomena are impossible to determine precisely in advance: the general picture drawn by the forecast bulletins, therefore, should always be integrated with real-time and local observations.

When a thunderstorm occurs

Monitor weather conditions frequently, in particular pay attention to the possible presence of early warning signs of the arrival of a thunderstorm, and decide promptly what to do:

  • If there are vertically developed cumulus clouds in the sky, and the day down the valley is hot and sultry, in the following hours it is better to avoid open and exposed environments (such as a mountain ridge or the shore of the sea or the lake);
  • do not hesitate to review the programs of your day: in some cases this precaution could prove to be excessiv afterwards, since a precursor signal does not provide absolute certainty of the imminence of a thunderstorm, or maybe the latter will develop a few kilometers away without involving the location where you are. However, it should never be forgotten that there is no way to accurately predict this evolution and when the sky becomes darker, up to the point of presenting the classic dark and threatening connotations that announce with certainty the arrival of the storm, the time available to put oneself in safety will be very little, in most cases insufficient. Remember that with these phenomena it is always preferable an excess of caution than a lack of caution.

Under exposed conditions, as lightning and thunder start

If you see lightning, particularly during the twilight and nocturnal hours, the storm can still be far away, even tens of kilometers away. In this case, move away in time, well in advance of any coming storm.

However, if you hear thunder, even if it seems far away, the storm is a few kilometers, or even closer. In this case you are in danger, and you should immediately reach a sheltered place.


In case of lightning associated with thunderstorms

Lightning represents a major danger when associated with thunderstorms.
Most lightning accidents occur outdoors: the mountain is the place most at risk, but so are all large and exposed places, such as a lawn or a football field, especially in the presence of water, such as the sea, beaches, piers, jetties, outdoor pools. In reality, there is a residual risk connected to lightning even indoors.

A thunderstorm cloud can give rise to lightning even without precipitation, also lightning can strike a few kilometers away from the center of the storm. So, even if there are no clouds on our heads, but we see or hear a thunderstorm nearby, we risk being the target of electrical discharges.
If a person is a victim of lightning, remember that his body is not electrically charged and therefore can be rescued immediately, without any risk.


No place is safe outdoors, so the first thing to do is quickly reach a closed place and wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder, before restarting outdoor activities. If there is no building, look for shelter inside the car with the doors and windows closed and the radio antenna lowered as much as possible.

To understand where electric shocks will most frequently occur, you need to consider the shape of the objects, not the material of which they are made.

The preferred targets are high places (trees, poles, pylons) or protruding from a lower surrounding environment (even a single person in a large, flat place, such as a lawn or beach), and pointed places (umbrella, fishing rod, etc..).

If you are forced to stay outdoors and cannot quickly reach a safe shelter, move away from any points that protrude significantly, such as poles or trees, and do not seek shelter, especially if they are isolated and higher than the surrounding vegetation. In turn, try not to constitute the highest presence of the place that surrounds you.

The metal does not attract lightning, so it is not dangerous to wear or hold small metal objects (watch, keys, necklaces, earrings, etc..). However, metal is a good conductor of electricity: it is therefore important to stay away from particularly large metal objects (nets or fences, railings, steps or stands, ropes or stairs, etc..). If a structure like this is struck by lightning, the metal can lead the current to the person in contact with it or in the immediate vicinity. For the same reason, it is recommended to stay away from the water (away from the shore of the sea or a lake) if a thunderstorm is occurring. 

And especially if you are caught in a thunderstorm:

By mountain

Immediately lower your altitude, avoid staying on particularly high, exposed or pointed routes, such as ridges or peaks, keep away from routes equipped with ropes and metal ladders and immediately stop any climbs on the wall. Quickly reach a path at lower altitudes, walking, if possible, along depressions of the ground (basins, valleys, ditches but be careful of any flooding in case of heavy rainfall).

If you are with other people, do not hold hands and walk at least 10 meters apart.

Look for shelter inside a building or, if you can reach it quickly, by car. Less safe shelters, but useful in the absence of better alternatives, are caves, bivouacs or barns, provided you stay away from the threshold and walls.

Once you have reached a shelter, but even if you are forced to stay outdoors, keep your feet together, minimizing the point of contact with the ground, so as to reduce the intensity of the current that can pass through your body. For the same reason, avoid sitting or, worse, lying on the ground. Always with your feet together, you can assume a squatting position, preferably by placing any insulating material between you and the ground.

Also in this case, stay as far away as possible from other people who are with you.

By the sea or lake

Avoid any contact or proximity with water: lightning, in fact, can cause serious damage also by indirect electrocution, due to the dispersion of the discharge that is transmitted up to a few tens of meters from the point hit. So, get out of the water immediately and move away from the shore, and also from the edge of an outdoor pool, also remember that boats, canoes and dugouts, even if covered, do not protect in any way from lightning.

Quickly seek shelter inside a building or, if not possible, in a car, bearing in mind that in very large and flat places, such as beaches, you are more exposed.

Free of umbrellas, umbrellas, fishing rods and any other pointed object of medium or large size.


During a thunderstorm, it is recommended to take shelter in a masonry structure, such as the services of the campsite or, in the absence of these, inside the car. It is not recommended to seek shelter in caravans or campers, unless they are made of metal sheet. If you are in a tent and it is impossible for you to go elsewhere:

  • avoid touching the metal structures and walls of the tent;
  • avoid contact with metal objects connected to the electrical system (however, it is advisable to disconnect the electrical equipment);
  • insulated from the ground with any insulating material available.

At home

The risk of lightning is greatly reduced, however, follow some simple rules during the storm, bearing in mind that a building is a safe place, as long as you do not come into contact with anything that can conduct electricity:

  • avoid using the equipment connected to the mains and the fixed telephone. If you need to communicate, you can use your mobile or cordless phone. Keep electrical appliances (preferably by unplugging them), especially TVs, computers and appliances, switched off;
  • do not touch metal parts connected to the outside, such as pipes, cables, pipes and electrical equipment;
  • avoid contact with water (postpone at the end of the storm operations such as washing dishes or showering, in most cases just wait one or two hours);
  • do not stand under canopies, balconies, sheds, pavilions, gazebos and verandas that are not safe places. Repair yourself inside the building, keeping your distance from doors and windows, making sure that the latter are closed.