89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Monday, 12 January 2009
Lightning-caused deaths and injuries in and near dwellings and other buildings
Hall 5 (Phoenix Convention Center)
Ronald L. Holle, Holle Meteorology & Photography, Oro Valley, AZ
Poster PDF (139.9 kB)
Lightning safety recommendations identify two reliable safe places. One is a large substantial building. The other is inside a fully-enclosed metal-topped vehicle; that topic was addressed in a 2008 AMS Annual Meeting paper.

There has not been an extensive study of casualties within and near buildings. Recent cases will be summarized from available newspaper, web, and other media reports. Hundreds of events will be described that involve at least one death or injury. These events will include dwellings of all types, as well as other types of buildings.

With regards to dwellings, well constructed houses provide lightning protection to people inside who are not in contact with electrical, plumbing, and corded telephone paths that can be followed by lightning. Deaths inside US dwellings usually occur to the elderly, very young, and people with disabilities due to fires at night. A house under construction has inadequate lightning protection. Deaths are also common inside dwellings that are not substantial. Casualties often occur in the yard and on the roof, regardless of building type.

Additional cases will be summarized that describe lightning casualties inside schools, offices, and other types of buildings not used as a dwelling. Also included in this category are small structures that are not safe from lightning where people seek safety from lightning.

It can be concluded that people inside substantial buildings are safe from lightning as long as they are not in contact with conducting paths, and can escape a home if it catches fire at night. People inside straw-roofed buildings typically have no protection from lightning. A person outside any type of building is exposed to the lightning threat.

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