Lightning is the most consistent and significant weather hazard that may affect interscholastic athletes and other outdoor activities. Within the United States, the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) estimates more than 100 fatalities and 400-500 injuries requiring medical treatment occur from lighting strikes every year. While the probability of being struck by lightning is extremely low, the odds are significantly greater when a storm is in the area and the proper safety precautions are not followed. Three quarters of all lightning casualties occur between May and September, and nearly four out of five occur between 10am and 7pm.
Prevention and education are the keys to lightning safety. Education begins with information on lightning. The references associated with these guidelines are an appropriate resource. Prevention should begin long before any athletic event, practice, or outdoor activity is held. The CDC and NWS suggest the following Safety Tips when outdoors during potential lightning.
Outdoor Safety Tips
Although no place outside is safe during a thunderstorm, you can minimize your risk by assessing the lightning threat early and taking appropriate actions. The best defense is to avoid lightning. Here are some outdoor safety tips that can help you avoid being struck.
- Be aware.
Check the weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities. If the forecast calls for thunderstorms, postpone your trip or activity, or make sure suitable safe shelter is readily available.
- Go indoors.
Remember the phrase, “When thunder roars, go indoors.” Find a safe, enclosed shelter when you hear thunder. Safe shelters include homes, offices, shopping centers, and hard-top vehicles with the windows rolled up.
- Seek shelter immediately, even if caught out in the open.
If you are caught in an open area, act quickly to find shelter. The most important action is to remove yourself from danger. Crouching or getting low to the ground can reduce your chances of being struck, but it does not remove you from danger.
- If you are caught outside with no safe shelter nearby, the following actions might reduce your risk of being struck by lightning:
- Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges, or peaks.
- Never lie flat on the ground. Crouch down in a ball-like position with your head tucked and hands over your ears so that you are down low with minimal contact with the ground.
- Never shelter under an isolated tree. If you are in a forest, shelter near lower trees.
- Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
- Immediately get out of and away from ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water.
- Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (such as barbed wire fences, power lines, or windmills).
- Separate from others.
If you are in a group during a thunderstorm, separate from each other. This will reduce the number of injuries if lightning strikes the ground.
- If you are out in the open water and a storm rolls in, return to shore immediately.
If you are on a boat in open water when a thunderstorm rolls in, return to shore immediately and seek shelter. If you are unable to return to shore, boats with cabins offer some protection. If caught in a storm in a small boat with no cabin, drop anchor and get as low as possible.
- Don’t stay in open vehicles.
During a thunderstorm, avoid open vehicles such as convertibles, motorcycles, and golf carts.
- Don’t stay in open structures.
Avoid open structures such as porches, gazebos, baseball dugouts, and sports arenas. These structures won’t protect you from lightning.
- Avoid open spaces.
Stay away from open spaces such as golf courses, parks, playgrounds, ponds, lakes, swimming pools, and beaches. Seek shelter immediately.
- Don’t stay near tall structures.
Stay away from tall structures, such as telephone poles and trees; lightning tends to strike the tallest object around.
- Be aware.
Perry Weather Safety Platform
The Perry Weather platform monitors current weather conditions and sends alerts via phone notifications, SMS text messages, and emails when lightning strikes and immediately begins a 30 minute "All Clear" countdown that automatically resets for each lightning strike within a 10 mile radius of the weather station. Big Spring ISD has two Perry Weather stations, one at Memorial Stadium, and one at the Athletic Training Center (ATC).