Telephones and Thunderstorms – What are the risks?

Living in Queensland comes with an incredibly long list of benefits. Beautiful weather that is the envy of the rest of Australia with warm, balmy summers and mild winters, and an outdoor lifestyle that is unmatched. But part of living in this great state means being adaptable to extreme weather events.

Storms that arrive suddenly in the late afternoon and early evening are as much as part of Queensland summers as cricket and trips to the beach with family and friends.

While most of us have a fairly tried and true storm plan which includes tying down loose objects so the wind doesn’t turn them into projectiles and having batteries, candles and a radio on hand in case of a power outage, we don’t think as often about the risks to do with our phones.



There are two main risks that may arise from using your fixed line phone or mobile during a thunderstorm. The first is obvious, with a power surge or lightning strike resulting in a power surge that can give you an electric shock.

In mild cases this can cause discomfort and a unpleasant tingling sensation in your arm, but in the worst case scenario the shock can be bad enough to be fatal.


Acoustic Shocks

The second major risk that can arise from use of your telephony equipment during a storm can be an acoustic shriek or acoustic shock. If you’ve ever been in a room where a microphone is too close to the speakers resulting in that shrieking sound that is like listening to fingernails being run down a chalkboard, you already know about this.

But imagine that noise being blasted into your sensitive ear canal from point blank range from your phone. That can be the result when using a phone during a violent electrical storm.

The symptoms can range from temporary hearing loss to a frustrating ringing in the ears following the blast. Because your ears are also crucial to your balance it’s not uncommon to also feel lightheaded and dizzy for some time.


Reduce Your Risk

The simplest way to dial your risk down to zero is to avoid using your phone during storms. If you must use your handset or landline, make sure you do so inside, as electrical devices that are made of metal are natural lightning rods.

For people who must use their phones there are some protective devices that can be fitted, but importantly, none can guarantee complete protection from injury.

Phones are a natural extension of our lives now, but during storms put them to one side and enjoy the awesome power of nature or take the chance to do some guilt free reading (of a newspaper or book, not on your phone!).