Although you can take a lot of precautions to stay safe during a thunderstorm, there's really no foolproof way to avoid lightning, especially if you're camping in the mountains. The 30/30 rule provides some helpful guidelines if you see lightning. Stay in shelter if you see lightning and can't count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay in your shelter for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder [source: FEMA]. If you have time, seek shelter immediately.
If you don't have access to a car or other form of shelter, remember that heavily wooded areas will leave you less exposed to lightning, and you'll be less likely to be struck there. However, if you're on an exposed trail, you should ditch your backpack and get as low as possible. Whenever lightning is likely, be sure to take off your backpack if it has a metal frame.
While you might feel like staying in your tent to get out of the rain, lying down in your tent will increase the risk that you'll be struck by ground current from lightning. Even if you're camping in a heavily wooded area, where you're less likely to be struck, you'll still run the risk of getting hit by a ground current or secondary strike. So, even though it might be uncomfortable, in the middle of a thunderstorm, it's best to abandon your tent.
If you're camping with a group, don't huddle together. If you're touching each other, and one person is struck, you'll all be struck. However, if one member of the group is struck, the rest of the crew can provide assistance. First and foremost, remember that a person who's been struck by lightning carries no electrical charge and can be handled safely. If you have access to a phone, call 911 immediately to get medical assistance. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing, and if the heart has stopped beating, administer CPR. If the victim is breathing and has a pulse, look for other possible injuries.
On the next page, we'll take a look at what you can do to protect yourself against tornadoes or flash floods that may develop as a result of storms.