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Lightning And Sporting Events

If you can see it, flee it; if you can hear it, clear it

Summer activities can take us outdoors for things like organized athletic events.  Maybe it’s watching your favorite team, watching your child play, or taking the field yourself.  If you are participating in an outdoor sport, the game is at the mercy of Mother Nature.  One of Mother Nature’s most frequent weather hazards is lightning.  Baseball, football, lacrosse, skiing, swimming, soccer, tennis, track and field events…all of these and other outdoor sports have been visited by lightning.

The National Lightening Safety Institute (NLSI) says education is the single most important means to achieve lightning safety. A lightning safety program should be implemented at every facility and the NLSI suggests the following steps:

A responsible person should be designated to monitor weather conditions. Local weather forecasts— from The Weather Channel, NOAA Weather Radio, or local TV stations— should be observed 24 hours prior to athletic events. An inexpensive portable weather radio is recommended for obtaining timely storm data.

A plan for the suspension and resumption of athletic activities should be in place before games begin.  The availability of SAFE shelters is essential. SAFE evacuation sites include: fully enclosed metal vehicles with windows up, substantial buildings and areas of low ground.

UNSAFE shelter areas include open pavilions, and all outdoor metal objects like flag poles, fences and gates, light poles, metal bleachers, golf carts, machinery, etc.  You should also avoid trees, water, open fields and areas of high ground.

Lightning’s distance from you is easy to calculate: if you hear thunder, the associated lightning is within striking distance. The rule of thumb: when thunder roars, go indoors. Another good lightning safety motto is: “If you can see it (lightning) flee it; if you can hear it (thunder), clear it.”

If you feel your hair standing on end, and/or hear “crackling noises,” you are in lightning’s electric field. Immediately drop to a crouching position. Remove metal objects (including baseball cap) and with feet together, duck your head, and crouch down low in baseball catcher’s stance with your hands on your knees.

Wait a minimum of 30 minutes from the last observed lightning or thunder before resuming activities.

If someone is struck by lightning, administer first aid immediately if you are qualified to do so and get emergency help promptly.  People who have been struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to approach.

Remember, “If you can see it, flee it; if you can hear it, clear it” and have a safe game!