When I was 12, one day my mom had towels hung on the clothes line, when a storm began to move in. She told me to run and bring the towels in before they got wet. I was almost done, when there was suddenly a very loud boom. Lightning had struck the tree that the clothesline was tied at one end. I had one hand on a dry towel, and the other hand on a dry wooden clothespin. And, I saw, in a split-second, electricity travel down the line, wrap around my hand, even making an impression of my knuckles, and continue down the line. I felt nothing. Not even a tingle.
Although camping deaths such as drowning, falling, and motor vehicle accidents, far exceed the risk from lightning. the #1 cause of camping fatalities due to natural disasters is lightning strikes.
While automobiles are generally considered safe during lightning, the same may not be true for RVs. The common misconception is that the rubber tires insulate the vehicle. The truth is, the car’s metal body deflects the lightning. The metal body acts as a “Faraday Cage” which protects metal vehicles and metal RVs from lightning. The electricity travels over the surface and does not penetrate to the interior.
If your RV has an outer layer of metal, and lightning strikes this surface, it will be deflected harmlessly away. But, if your RV is mainly made of fiberglass and wood, you would be safer inside your tow (or towed) vehicle, if you have one.
Most lightning fatalities occur when people are close to shelter but delay seeking safety. About 85% of lightning victims are male, and almost half are between the ages of 15-34. Logically, this is the group least likely to seek shelter. Roughly 20-30 people die from lightning strikes each year in the US,
Here are a few tips for lightning safety.
SEEK SHELTER EARLY- Lightning can strike outward from a thunderstorm as far as 10 miles, which is about the distance we can hear thunder. So, if you can hear thunder, you are in danger.
SEEK INDOOR SHELTER- Do not seek shelter under a tree. If you don’t have a metal RV, or another vehicle, you might want to become sudden friends with a camper who does. Many campgrounds suggest you use the restroom building as a safe haven. If no other shelter is available, my understanding is that you are safer inside even a fiberglass RV, than outside.
UNPLUG- If the campground’s electrical system is hit, your RV could be exposed to power surges that will burn out fuses, damage the wiring, and even catch your RV on fire. If another RV gets hit by lightning, and you’re both connected to the electrical system, you get hit too. Your RV is at greater risk of being hit through the electrical system, than directly. Disconnect and store your power cable.
UNPLUG INDOOR DEVICES- If lightning hits your RV or the electrical system, it can travel through your RV electrical lines, and destroy any connected devices, and injure you.
STAY AWAY FROM TREES- If a tree gets struck by lightning, it could split in half and fall on your RV. And, since strong winds commonly accompany lightning, a common danger is from falling tree limbs.
STAY AWAY FROM STRING CONDUCTORS- Lightning can travel along fences, power lines, and guard rails to where you are, and jump to you.
STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS AND DOORS- The metal inside your RV is connected to the metal on the outside of your RV. If you are touching any metal parts, you are effectively licking the exterior of your RV.