Centennial Parklands is a beautiful outdoor destination in Sydney, however from time-to-time we are at the mercy of the elements. When a Sydney thunderstorm hits, it’s often not the rain and wind, but lightning strikes that can become a risk. It is important to know how to respond for your safety, and the safety of others.

Whether you’re visiting our open spaces, a golfer playing at Moore Park Golf, a footballer playing on a sports field, a cyclist heading around our roads, or just out for a walk in the park, we encourage you to read and be aware of the following advice.


Some quick facts

When storms hit you need to think quickly. Lightning is one of the most dangerous and frequently encountered weather hazards in Australia. It is estimated there are 5 to 10 deaths, and over 100 severe injuries caused by lightning every year.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, if there is less than 30 seconds between when you see a flash of lightning and hear thunder then you should take shelter or move inside.

One way of determining how close lightning is to you is to count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and sound of thunder. For every three seconds, the lightning is one kilometre away.

Again, if the time is within 30 seconds which means the lightning is as little as 10 kilometres away, you should find immediate shelter.

If less than 30 seconds between flash and thunder - take shelter

If less than 30 seconds between flash and thunder – take shelter


Finding shelter

Our friends at Australia Wide First Aid encourage you to find solid shelter during a storm. However, this does not include a tree.

Try and find shelter within a building, bus shelter or car and avoid water and objects that conduct electricity. This includes:

  • Golf Clubs
  • Umbrellas
  • Metal Fences
  • Trees
  • Puddles/Pools of Water


If you’re unable to find safe shelter, crouch down in the open, feet together with your head tucked down towards your chest. You should aim to make yourself as small as you can. Laying down flat on the ground increases your total body surface area, which also increases your chance of getting struck by lightning.

You should then wait approximately 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning before you leave your shelter. More than half of lightning deaths occur once the storm has passed.


What happens if I am struck by lightning?

The effects of being struck by lightning ranges from minor to life-threatening. According to guidelines published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, 90% of people struck by lightning survive, but they commonly suffer permanent after-effects and disabilities. Short term effects can include:

  • Impaired eyesight
  • Ear ringing
  • Ruptured ear drums
  • Loss of hearing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe electrical shock
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • External burns to the skin
  • Internal burns to organs and tissues
  • Burnt trauma (from falling)


In severe cases, cardiac arrest can occur.


Long term effects include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Memory dysfunction
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal gait (cannot walk or balance properly)
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Dry eyes


 How to respond if someone else is struck by lightning?

If someone you are with is struck by lightning, dial 000 and seek immediate medical attention (download the 000 smartphone app).

Please be aware that the victim will not retain an electrical charge, so it is safe to touch them. The person stuck may be unconscious, disorientated, or unable to speak. The victim also may have stopped breathing. If they are not breathing, begin DRSABCD immediately and continue until medical attention arrives. If the victim is burnt or bleeding, apply appropriate first aid.


A few facts and myths

Lightning facts:

  • Lightning can warm the air by 27,700 degrees Celsius, five times hotter than the surface of the sun
  • A strike can contain a hundred million electrical volts
  • If your hair stands up on the end of your head, it could indicate positive charges are rising through you. If so, seek immediate shelter
  • Thunder is caused by the expansion of rapidly heated air
  • Lightning from the top of a thunderstorm cloud carries a large positive charge. This is known as positive lightning
  • Positive lightning can strike as far as 16 kilometres from a storm.


Lightning myths (do not believe):

  • Lightning never strikes the same place twice
  • A lightning victim shouldn’t be touched because you could become electrocuted
  • You should shelter under a tree as it is safe
  • Structures with metal or jewellery attract lightning.


Source: Australia Wide First Aid

This article was research and created for the purpose of first aid information. All information read should not be used in place of advice from qualified health professionals. Interested in first aid courses? Australia Wide First Aid are running a number in Sydney.


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