They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, which has been scientifically proven untrue, but in all honesty one strike is bad enough if you are the target. Being struck by lightning can cause serious injury or even death due to the damaging electricity and high levels of heat encountered by the subject of a strike, or flash. A flash is the term coined for a completed single lightning event and is essentially a massive electrical discharge that takes place in several different ways. The most commonly known phenomenon is cloud to ground lightning which occurs when lightning originating in the clouds makes contact with an object on earth. The reverse of this action occurs as well when a tall ground object transfers lightning upwards into the clouds, which is known as ground to cloud lightning. Much of the lightning we see is amongst the clouds without ever reaching towards earth, which constitutes cloud to cloud or intracloud lightning.
When it comes to a lightning injury, there are many ways in which you can experience trauma other than through actually being struck. These are:
1. A direct strike is when high volumes of energy enter and leave your body at an extremely fast pace upon lightning contact. This can cause flesh and bone to literally explode as well as internally burning organs and damaging your central nervous system. Injuries by direct strike are most likely to be fatal or result in long term impairments. Immediate medical attention provides the best chance at survival.
2. A contact injury occurs when an object you are touching experiences a strike and the energy enters your body through that object.
3. A side splash takes place when an object near you is hit by lightning and the electricity jumps the gap between that object and your body.
4. It is possible to get a blast injury by being in the vicinity of a lightning strike that causes an explosion or sends a shock wave in your direction. In this case, you could be hit by flying debris of become flying debris yourself if thrown by the force of the blast.
5. Ground current strikes, which are an indirect form of strike, occur when charges from the earth's surface seek to connect with a flash channel. In some cases, these charges will pass through the bodies of people or animals in their quest to connect.
6. Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is created during the discharge process after a strike and can cause malfunctions of pacemakers, harming those who use them.
The best way to survive lightning strikes are simply to avoid them. Remember that if you can hear thunder, you are within strike distance for lightning. Ideally, safety should be sought inside a building where telephones or television are not being used. Avoid making contact with metal objects and take note that if your hair begins to stand on end, you are in immediate danger. Should you be outdoors in open terrain with no possibility of shelter, avoid making yourself the tallest object or standing near to the tallest object as that is what lightning will be drawn toward. Seek refuge instead in a cluster of small trees and distance yourself from people should anyone be with you, keeping several yards between one another.
Do not do this:
If you are alone and exposed, however, it is best to crouch down as low to the ground as you can get while still keeping your hands off the ground but pressing your feet as close together as possible. The reason for this is that having legs in different locations creates potential difference and allows current to flow throughout your body much like terminals on a battery. This is why cows die in lightning storms, because it is easy for them to experience a lethal jolt due to the placement of their legs/the potential difference created by that placement and the electricity each leg can conduct. The lower the potential difference, the less current that can flow, and the more likelihood that you will survive a lightning strike.
Surviving a lightning strike is possible if precautions are taken to minimize electrical contact. This may not be the easiest thing but any step you take towards survival gives you a shift of odds towards your favor. However, if tragedy does strike, know that affected persons will not retain a charge and can be cared for safely. While persons may initially appear deceased due to lighting's paralyzing affects, resuscitation is possible through the use of CPR by trained personnel, so be sure not to give up until all efforts to save the life of a stricken person have been exhausted.