In the United States an average of 42 fatalities are caused by lightning annually, with a majority of those fatalities occurring during sport and recreational activities. With spring events in full swing it is important to be aware of proper lightning safety to prevent such events for occurring.
When is it unsafe to be outdoors?
Many organizations will begin their lightning safety evacuations at the first sight of lightning or sound of thunder. If thunder can be heard, lightning is close enough to be a hazard. However the recommendation remains that once the edge of a thunderstorm has come within 6 miles of an event all individuals should be in a safe location. It is important to plan time for participates and spectators to move to these safe locations.
How to determine the distance of a storm?
The Flash to Bang Method can be used to give an estimate of the distance of an approaching thunderstorm. To use this method begin counting when the flash of lightning is observed and stop counting when the following sound of thunder is heard; divide this count by 5 to determine the distance to the lightning flash (in miles). When the calculated number is 6 everyone should already be in safe locations.
What is a safe location?
Safe locations must be fully enclosed buildings with wiring and plumbing, such as schools or homes. Fully enclosed metal vehicles are also safe. Unsafe locations include dugouts, storage sheds, gazebos, press boxes, open garages, and concession stands. Locker rooms and rooms with multiple appliances or electronics should be avoided.
When can activity be resumed?
It is recommended that all persons stay within safe locations until 30 minutes following the last strike of lightning or sound of thunder. For every strike of lightning or sound of thunder the 30 minute clock resets.
While we all hope the summer is full of sun and great weather it is important to be informed and have a plan in case severe weather arises.
Have a safe summer!
- National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Lightning Safety for Athletics and Recreation
- Minnesota State High School League (Board Policy: Lightning/Threatening Weather)
- National Weather Service (Lightning Safety)