Lightning safety: These are the activities linked to the most deaths

Fishing, camping and a day at the beach all carry risk

While the average number of lightning fatalities has gone down over the last two decades, there are still a number of activities that have contributed to most of the deaths in the U.S.

Since National Lightning Safety Awareness Week began in 2001, the average number of deaths from strikes has dropped "dramatically," from an average of 55 deaths per year in the U.S. when the campaign first began to just 21 fatalities in 2019, according to the National Lightning Safety Council (NLSC).

Between 2006 and 2019, a review of some 418 fatal lightning strikes found that 62 percent of deaths were linked to leisure activities.

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Fishing has accounted for 40 of those deaths, while being at the beach, camping, and farming or ranching made up the largest portion of deaths, according to data reviewed by the NLSC.

There's a pattern to most of those, according to John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the NLSC,

A breakdown of lightning fatalities by activity from 2006 through 2019.

A breakdown of lightning fatalities by activity from 2006 through 2019. (Courtesy Lightning Safety Council)

Activities where people may be outside and not know if a storm is approaching when they are camping or fishing from a motorboat that drowns out the sound of thunder are factors to consider. If someone is at the beach, the sound of the surf may also drown out the distant rumbles of thunder.

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"The key is if there's any threat at all, rumble of thunder or what looks like a threatening sky, you need to be able to get into a safe place very quickly," he said.

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Here are the top 10 activities that have contributed to deadly lightning strikes from 2006 to 2019 as compiled by the NLSC.

1. Fishing: 40 deaths (10 percent of the total)

A total of 40 lightning-related deaths from 2006 to 2019 were invididuals who were fishing, the greatest number of leisure-related activity deaths.

A total of 40 lightning-related deaths from 2006 to 2019 were invididuals who were fishing, the greatest number of leisure-related activity deaths. (iStock)

2. Beach: 25 deaths (6 percent of the total)

3. Camping: 21 deaths (5 percent of the total)

4. Farming or Ranching: 20 deaths (5 percent of the total)

5. Riding bicycle, motorcycle, or ATV: 19 deaths (5 percent of total)

6. Boating: 18 deaths (4 percent of total)

7. Social gathering: 16 deaths (4 percent of total)

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8. Walking to or from home: 16 deaths (4 percent of total)

9. Roofing: 15 deaths (4 percent of total)

10. Construction: 13 deaths (3 percent of total)