Is An RV Safe In A Lightning Storm?
Many of us have heard the advice that a car is a safe place to hide out during a lightning storm. But is the same thing true for RVs? Are these vehicles truly safe havens from lightning, or are they more dangerous than being outside? These are all fair questions, and it’s important for RVers to follow some proper lightning safety tips.
To answer the main question: You are safe from lightning in your RV if it has an outer layer of metal. If lightning strikes this surface, it will deflect harmlessly away and will not hurt the people inside. If you are in an RV that is mainly made of fiberglass and wood, you would be safer inside your tow vehicle. These RVs will be more severely damaged by lightning strikes and could catch fire.
Even if you have a metal RV, it’s important to understand how to stay safe during a lightning storm. There are powerful forces of nature that could cause severe damage if you’re not careful. Read on for more tips on how to stay safe during a storm.
Thunderstorm watch vs. Thunderstorm warning
The first thing to understand when it comes to lightning safety is the difference between a thunderstorm watch and a thunderstorm warning. A watch is an alert you will receive when the conditions are right for a thunderstorm, but there is no current threat. A warning will be issued when a thunderstorm has formed and is posing a clear danger.
For updates on these developments, be sure to tune into weather apps on your phone as well as TV and radio broadcasts. Thunderstorm watches will often span over broad areas, while warnings are more localized. It’s a good idea to keep a battery-operated (or hand-crank) weather radio on hand for emergencies.
Take shelter early
Once you’re aware of a brewing storm in your area, you’ll need to act quickly. A lightning storm can move fast, so you need to be ready to take shelter at any point.
Most lightning fatalities occur when people are close to shelter but don’t act fast enough to reach it. Even if it seems like overkill, don’t be afraid to seek safety the moment you receive a thunderstorm warning. If you have a car or aluminum RV nearby, you can use this. Otherwise, look for an indoor shelter or even a cave.
Do not park under large trees
Even if your vehicle is safe from the dangers of lightning, your surroundings could pose a serious threat. Trees can split and fall over when they are struck by lightning.
Choose your campsite carefully to ensure that you’re not at risk from any falling trees or branches. Staying out in the open might seem counterintuitive, but it’s better for your RV to be hit with lightning rather than a falling tree.
Stay away from water
This tip should be obvious, but be careful of water when a lightning storm is nearby. Water conducts electricity, so you won’t want to be swimming, fishing, boating, or doing anything else that places you close to a body of water.
Many campgrounds are close to rivers and lakes, so this is important for RVers to keep in mind. Quickly get away from the water, dry off, and seek shelter if a storm is approaching.
Unplug RV from campsite pedestal
If a storm is on the way, you should disconnect your RV from the electrical hookups and campsite pedestal. If the electrical system is hit, your RV could be exposed to power surges that will burn out fuses and damage the wiring.
This could leave you stranded without power until the storm clears up and you can get help. Nobody wants to deal with that, so it’s better to take preventative measures instead.
Beware of the Faraday Cage
The Faraday Cage is a phenomenon that protects cars and aluminum RVs from lightning. When these structures are hit, the electricity surges over the surface and does not penetrate the interior.
This exterior web of electricity is called the Faraday Cage. It’s extremely useful for the people inside the vehicle, but those on the outside need to be wary. Do not approach the exterior of cars or RVs if they have just been shocked. The electricity could travel to you next!
Stay away from windows and doors
In a similar vein, you need to be careful even if you’re inside a car or RV. The aluminum exterior will deflect most of the danger, but you should avoid the doors and windows. If you touch them when the vehicle is struck by lightning, the electricity could travel inside and hurt you.
Likewise, try not to touch any part of your vehicle that is made of metal. If it’s connected to the outside in any way, this could be a conduit that will shock you. It’s best if you stay on padded surfaces like your seats, couches, or beds. Don’t touch the walls or any metal appliances.
Secure loose items
If you have some time to prepare, there are things you can do to protect your RV from damage. It’s best to do these things during a thunderstorm watch rather than a warning. If the danger is coming fast, prioritize your own safety first.
If you have time, it’s a good idea to secure loose items around your RV. Retract your awning and bring in any camping chairs, coolers, or other items that could be blown around. Bring your pets inside and take down any roof attachments like solar panels or antennae. Close all windows and lock your storage compartments.
Keep emergency equipment on-hand
Lots of things can go wrong during a lightning storm. Your RV battery could be damaged, people can get hurt, and you might lose contact with the outside world for a while. This is why it’s a good idea to have a 72-hour kit and emergency equipment with you. Make sure you have clothes, non-perishable food, medical supplies, and a source of heat.
Seek indoor shelter if necessary
If you don’t have an aluminum RV or car that you can retreat to, you need to have a backup source of shelter. See if another camper is willing to shelter you until the storm passes. You can also go to the campground community center or another indoor area if you need protection. Make sure you have a safe place to retreat to if a lightning storm is on the horizon!
Lightning storms are dangerous, but you can avoid the worst outcomes if you’re properly prepared. Just make sure you stay up-to-date on the weather, take precautions, and have a plan for these situations. As long as you don’t panic, you should be safe.
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