Stayin' Alive—The Unofficial Guide to Electrocution

Be sure to read the full description on the video’s YouTube page, which contains additional details and links to videos on CPR and real-world examples of accidental electrocutions on job sites and entertainment venues.


Great info everyone should hear, and rehear.

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The presenter correctly points out the additional risks from damp environments. But, as so often, there is contrary evidence.

A gentleman told me of the time he woke up in a German hospital wondering “What happened?”. He was in the army on a night-time training exercise. It was raining heavily – it was Germany, after all. He was thoroughly soaked, bored, leaning against a truck in “Hurry Up & Wait” mode when the lightning struck.

It seems that the layer of rain water over him (plus the preference of electrons to avoid each others’ company) resulted in the electricity flowing around him rather than through him. Hence his survival.


Lightning can do some odd and counter-intuitive things. I recall reading somewhere that many people who survived being struck by lightning were thought not to have been struck by the main bolt but rather a streamer that did not connect and make a main strike, by a side flash from a main strike, or by ground current in the vicinity of a direct strike. These are all dangerous and can kill, but are not as deadly a direct strike. Side flashes are a common cause of injuries when a strike connects to a tree and there are people nearby the trunk. Here is a U.S. National Weather Service document about the different kinds of strikes.

Lightning Science: Five Ways Lightning Strikes People

I’m not sure how being wet with rainwater would protect against lightning. The human body, which has a salt content roughly the same as seawater, is much more conductive than rainwater, and lightning tends to take the path of least resistance.


I am guessing that the Army provided its troops with quite substantial rain gear – the prevalence of rain in Germany being no surprise. The situation may thus have been a continuous layer of rain water on the outside, an insulating layer of impermeable rain gear, a further insulating layer of normal (mostly dry) clothes, and then the human body on the inside.

Leaning against the metal truck may also have helped to divert part of the energy of the lightning strike – although that would still require electricity to flow via the rainwater layer over the otherwise-insulating rubber tires.