If a thunderstorm is rolling in, your chances of being struck by lightning are one in 600,000, but this risk is elevated if you take a shower or bath, wash laundry or dishes, or even clean your hands in the sink during the storm. While not all lightning strikes are fatal, an average of 80 deaths and 300 injuries occur each year in the United States.
Indoor Versus Outdoor Strikes
One of the most common places to get struck by lightning is on a golf course or standing under a tree, which account for a respective five and 14 percent of lightning-related casualties. While most lightning strike-related deaths occur outside of the home in the steamy summer months, indoor strikes can also be dangerous and even fatal, according to FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Lightning can enter the home through an electrical surge or water, so it's important to keep electronics turned off and avoid using water during the storm.
The Perfect Conduit
If you are indoors during a thunderstorm, FEMA recommends avoiding all plumbing fixtures, which include showers, baths, bathroom or kitchen sinks and washing machines. Plumbing fixtures, such as your shower head, sink faucet or washing machine, can conduct electricity, and if you happen to be using water from the pipes, the water can act as a conduit for the electrical force created by the lightening strike. If lightning strikes your home, this powerful electrical surge can electrocute the user, so plumbing fixtures should be avoided in general during a thunderstorm, even if the water is not in use.
A lightning strike can occur even when it is not raining, or up to 10 miles from an existing storm. After a storm, it's usually safe to shower or go outside 30 minutes after the last thunderclap and lightning strike, although errant, clear blue sky bolts do occur from time to time. You can also calculate the distance of an incoming storm by counting the seconds between a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning and dividing by five. However, if you can hear the thunder or see the lightning, the storm is close enough to be dangerous.
A common myth surrounding water-related lightning strike victims is that the body carries a dangerous electrical charge after the strike, but this is not true, according to FEMA. If a member of your household is struck by lightning in the shower or in any room, call 9-1-1 immediately and begin CPR or mouth-to-mouth, as necessary. FEMA suggests that you also look for burns, nervous system damage, broken bones and hearing or vision loss.