Lightning Safety

Lightning risks

I went to engineering school, and what I know best is electricity.  The most dangerous form of electricity that I can think of is lightning.  According to a paper written by Irene Cardoso, there are, worldwide, approximately 6000 people a year dying from lightning strikes.  (Her paper reduces the previous estimate by a factor of 4.)  I’m going to admit, that’s way more people than I could have possibly imagined.  In the US, strikes are fatal in 9-10% of cases, meaning that somewhere around 60,000 people a year are struck by lightning.

That’s pretty amazing for something that used to be considered the Wrath of God (Kind of makes Thor less intimidating, doesn’t it?).  Sharks kill double-digit numbers worldwide.  It is so rare to be killed by a bear in North America, you’re mentioned by name on Wikipedia.  My personal “danger threshold” number is 2500.  That’s because that’s the number of people that are killed in toilet-related mishaps.

What else is dangerous — vaccines, right?  They are victims of their own success; today we can imagine they are useless because they are so effective.  There are potential complications because any medical procedure has complications.  A common antibiotic will make me lose consciousness for a couple of days.  I got a potentially-fatal case of oxygen toxicity from DCS treatment.  (Long story.)

According to what appears to an anti-vaccine site, there are ten million vaccines given out every year.  Ten million, although that seems a little on the low side to me.  Nevertheless, let’s go with that as our base number.  Another says that only 1-10% of vaccine complications are reported.  According to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, a severe reaction to the MMR vaccine is literally a one-in-a-million chance.  This means that out of the 10 million vaccines, only 10 people will have reactions.  Assuming that only 10% of those are reported, that’s 100 people getting sick.  If we then extrapolate the lightning-fatality odds and assume that that’s only 10% of cases presenting as severe allergic reactions, that’s 1,000 people getting sick from vaccines every year. (using the anti-vaccine numbers, which are neither peer-reviewed nor double-blind-studied.)

Back to electricity and those 60,000 lightning strikes.  You’re at least 60 times more likely to be hit by lightning than you are to get sick from getting a vaccine.

(Image courtesy of Georgia Canoeing Association)

I’ve summarized this as a PDF in case you know someone that like to argue but doesn’t like to read: Risks of lightning strikes vs vaccines

Published by

Magnus

Magnus

Magnus is a Professional Electrical Engineer from Victoria, BC. He's worked on projects ranging from new code for embedded radios to inspecting [redacted] government systems. He'll relax and unwind by teaching yoga or Cyclefit, or going out for a dive in the cold ocean.

3 thoughts on “Lightning risks”

  1. First off I want to say fantastic blog! I had a quick
    question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself
    and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there.
    I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15
    minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any
    recommendations or hints? Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *