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  1. Crouch down low like a baseball catcher. Get as low as you can. The nearer you are to the ground, the less likely you are to be struck by lightning. But never lie down!

  2. If your hair begins to stand on end or your skin starts to tingle, a lightning strike is imminent. Immediately get into the crouching position. Lightning may strike without this warning, however.

  3. Place hands over ears to minimize hearing loss from the loud clap of thunder that will boom very close to you.

  4. The only thing touching the ground should be the balls of your feet. Lightning can hit the ground first, and then enter your body. The more you minimize your contact with the ground, the less chance of electricity entering your body.

  5. Touch the heels of your feet together. If electricity from a ground strike enters through your feet, this increases the chances of the electricity going in one foot and out the other, rather than into the rest of your body.

  6. Don't touch any possible conductors.

  • I'd suggest not covering your ears, but grabbing both ankles, and removing the shoes. This means all limbs if struck are now closest to ground. No point protecting your hearing if the current flows through your arms across the heart to the feet. – HappySpoon Jul 20 '14 at 2:22
  • 4
    It's hard to imagine a feasible experiment or study that would rigorously test the effectiveness of this technique, so I think any evidence for it will necessarily be strictly theoretical. – Nate Eldredge Jul 20 '14 at 13:54
  • @HappySpoon That would lower your highest point and as someone with ear damage (tinnitus) I can assure you it can be a living hell. Protecting your ears is something that is very underestimated safety measure. I'm preparing an answer, but have to speak to some physicist friends first. – Jori Jul 21 '14 at 13:33
  • @NateEldredge, Mythbusters have attempted testing some lightning-based myths, but the best they (thanks to PG&E) can achieve is an order of magnitude less than actual lightning. – Brian S Jul 21 '14 at 15:04
  • Surely point 4 would be incorrect as with the whole Earth to go through, why would the electricity enter up into your body? – user21786 Sep 5 '14 at 9:05
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It's a bit of a stretch. FEMA describes most of that advice as a last resort: if you feel a tingle, and you are in the open, then assume that position, meant to minimize damage.

On the other hand, FEMA and all other sources that I've seen clearly spell out that you need to find shelter, and that's the best way to ensure your safety.

If you feel your hair stand on end (which implies that lightning is about to strike), squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground.

Ready.gov agrees:

During Thunderstorms and Lightning

If thunderstorm and lightning are occurring in your area, you should:

[...]

  • Avoid hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the water.
  • Take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.

A good summary on how to survive a lightning storm is provided by [Live Science]

How to survive a lightning strike

The best way to survive, of course, is to avoid a lightning strike. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends people follow the 30/30 rule: If, after seeing lightning, you can't count to 30 before hearing thunder, get inside a building immediately (because the lightning storm is close). And don't go outside until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

[...]

If you're caught outdoors in a forest during a lightning storm, seek shelter in a low area under a dense growth of small trees. Avoid tall trees, since lightning tends to strike the tallest object in an area.

If you're in an open area, go to a low area, like a valley or a ravine (but be alert for flash floods). If you're in a boat in open water, get to land as quickly as possible.

And if you feel your hair stand on end, that means lightning is about to strike. As a last resort, immediately squat down on the balls of your feet, cover your ears with your hands (to minimize hearing loss) and put your head between your knees.

(my emphasis)

How to Survive a Lightning Strike

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