Be Aware Lane Cove – Electric Shocks While Using the Phone During a Thunderstorm

The weather has just started to change and you can hear thunder and lightening in the background. When ITC was growing up, my mother would never ever ever let us use a phone during a thunderstorm (bearing in mind that fixed telephone lines were the go and mobiles were the shape of bricks).  She was worried about electric shocks and damage to hearing.
Today ITC tends to only use the  mobile phone.  We really only have a fixed telephone line so that ITC’s mum can call (but don’t think that she’s not into technology… she loves Facebook and her mobile).

Since we rarely use the fixed line, ITC has tended to forget her mum’s advice during a thunderstorm. Recently ITC came across some stats which indicated, if you are using a mobile phone during a thunderstorm, electric shocks and damage to hearing may still occur in certain situations.

The following information is sourced from the Telstra website:

You may suffer an electric shock using your phone, fax, computer or other electrical equipment during a thunderstorm. In extreme cases this may be fatal.

If you must use your phone during a thunderstorm because of an emergency, then to reduce this risk:

  • keep the call as brief as possible
  • don’t touch electrical appliances, metal fixtures or brick or concrete walls
  • don’t stand in bare feet on uncovered concrete floors.

Indoor Phone Use

When indoors, hands-free and cordless phones can be used safely if they’re not touching the base unit. Mobile phones can be used as long as the phone isn’t on a charger or connected to an external aerial.

Outdoor phone use

When you’re outside in a thunderstorm, the Australian Lightning Protection Standard (AS1768) recommends you don’t carry metallic objects such as umbrellas, and you remove metallic jewellery, particularly from the upper body. Similarly, Telstra recommends against using a cordless or mobile phone outdoors in an unprotected area.

However, a handheld mobile phone may be used in a metal bodied vehicle with a metallic roof, provided there are no electrical connections (charger, external aerial etc.) to the phone. It may also be used with a hands-free car kit as long as the user is not touching the phone or kit and has no electrical connection to the phone. Using a Bluetooth wireless connection is another example of safe use when in such a vehicle. Of course, always obey the road rules.

Computer and fax use

The Australian Lightning Protection Standard also recommends that you don’t use a fax, computer, or other mains powered equipment during a thunderstorm. However, a battery powered (e.g. laptop) computer with a wireless connection may be used.


 Learn more about lightning protection in this short Telstra brochure about lightning surges (PDF, 66KB).  Information sourced on 12 October 2015
Sometimes mum does always know best!!!