Athletic Department Lightning Policy
Lightning strikes to individuals are rare but can be deadly. It is also the most consistent and significant weather hazard that may affect athletic participation. Due to the nature of lightning and the arrangement of the university's athletic facilities there must be a policy in place to respond to the occurrence of lightning.
The National Severe Storms Laboratory recommends that athletic participation cease when lightning is detected within six miles. For our purposes, this will be indicated by a 15 second horn blast from the Weatherbug Outdoor Alerting System located at the Soccer Press Box at Greene Harbison Stadium when lightening is detected within 10 miles (also indicated by a strobe light flashing on top of the Outdoor Alerting System that will remain flashing until an “all clear” is sounded). This information will be supplemented by email alerts from the Weatherbug Streamer RT and monitoring of the Weather Channel as well as local news reports for storm warnings.
Upon activation of the Outdoor Alerting System (horn, strobe light and email message from Streamer RT), all outdoor activity (includes the swimming pool) will cease immediately. All teams (coaches, student-athletes, managers, athletic trainers and cheerleaders) will immediately report to their assigned Safe Structure. A Safe Structure is defined as "any building normally occupied or frequently used by people, i.e., a building with plumbing and or electrical wiring that acts to electrically ground the structure". Teams will remain within these structures until an “All Clear” is announced by three short 5- second horn blasts from the Weatherbug Outdoor Alerting System located at the Soccer Press Box at Greene Harbison Stadium as well as an email alert from the Streamer RT. The Strobe light located on the Outdoor Alerting System will then cease flashing. Upon receiving these messages/alerts, teams may resume outdoor activity or in the swimming pool.
Safe Structures will be assigned as follows:
- Softball - Softball Clubhouse
- Football Practice - Gardner-Webb University Football Center
- Football Games - GWU Football Center/Hamrick Field House
- M & W Soccer - LYCC/Hamrick Field House
- M & W Cross Country - LYCC or nearest Safe Structure
- M & W Tennis - Springs Sports Facility
- M & W Golf - Clubhouse or nearest Safe Structure
- M & W Track and Field - Hamrick Field House
- M & W Swimming - Bost Gym, Out of the shower rooms
- W. Lacrosse –Hamrick Field House
- Cheerleading - Bost Gym, LYCC or nearest Safe Structure
In the event of lightning, precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of fans as well as players. When an event is delayed for lightning, an announcement will be made to spectators regarding the reason for the delay as well as suggestions for their safety. Spectators should either go inside a safe structure or at least get into automobiles which have a solid metal roof (not convertible) and roll up the windows. It is not the tires that protect from lightning strikes; it is the large area of the roof which dissipates the lightning around the vehicle.
- North Carolina ranks third in the U.S. for lightning strikes and deaths by lightning.
- It takes the sound of the bang of a thunderclap five seconds to travel one mile, lighting flash is seen instantaneously. Therefore for every five seconds between the flash of lightning and the bang of thunder, lightning is one mile away. A thirty second Flash to Bang count means lightning is 6 miles away.
- The average length of a lightning bolt is 3-6 miles long.
- The average speed of a thunderstorm is 25 MPH.
- Lightning can strike from a clear blue sky.
- Avoid using shower facilities for a safe structure and do not use showers or plumbing facilities during a thunderstorm.
- Trees are not good options for shelter during a thunderstorm, especially lone or single trees.
- If caught outdoors with no shelter stay away from the tallest objects, crouch down with only the balls of your feet touching the ground. Try to minimize your body's surface area and minimize contact with the ground. DO NOT lie flat.
- Avoid using land line telephones except in emergency. Cellular or cordless phones are a safe option within a Safe Structure.
- A safe location is any substantial, frequently inhabited building. The building should have four solid walls (not a dug out), electrical and telephone wiring, as well as plumbing, all of which aid in grounding a structure.
- The secondary choice for a safer location from the lightning hazard is a fully enclosed vehicle with a metal roof and the windows completely closed. It is important to not touch any part of the metal framework of the vehicle while inside it during ongoing thunderstorms.
- It is not safe to shower, bathe, or talk on land line phones while inside of a safe shelter during thunderstorms (cell phones are OK).
To use the flash-to-bang method, begin counting when sighting a lightning flash. Counting is stopped when the associated bang (thunder) is heard. Divide this count by five to determine the distance to the lightning flash ( in miles). For example, a flash-to-bang count of thirty seconds equates to a distance of six miles. Lightning has struck from as far away as 10 miles from the storm center. "If you hear it, clear it; if you see it, flee it"
Postpone or suspend activity if a thunderstorm appears imminent before or during an activity or contest, (irrespective of whether lightning is seen or thunder heard) until the hazard has passed. Signs of imminent thunderstorm activity are darkening clouds, high winds, and thunder or lightning activity.
P.S.A. for Unsafe Weather Conditions
Attention ladies and gentlemen, unsafe weather conditions have been detected. The National Severe Storm Laboratory recommends that during thunderstorms people should take shelter inside buildings such as a classroom, gymnasium or place of business. Inside a vehicle with a solid metal roof should be a safe alternative. If you are unsure of the appropriateness of your automobile please seek shelter indoors immediately.
NATA Recommendations for Lightning Safety
- Established a chain of command that identifies who is to make the call to remove individuals from the field.
- Name a designated weather watcher (A person who actively looks for the signs of threatening weather and notifies the chain of command if severe weather becomes dangerous.)
- Have a means of monitoring local weather forecasts and warnings.
- Designate a safe shelter for each venue.
- Use the Flash-to-Bang count to determine when to go to safety. By the time the flash-to-bang count approaches thirty seconds all individuals should be already inside a safe structure.
- Once activities have been suspended, wait at least thirty minutes following the last sound of thunder or lightning flash prior to resuming an activity or returning outdoors.
- Avoid being the highest point in an open field, in contact with, or proximity to the highest point, as well as being on the open water. Do not take shelter under or near trees, flagpoles, or light poles.
- Assume the lightning safe position (crouched on the ground, weight on the balls of the feet, feet together, head lowered, and ears covered) for individuals who feel their hair stand on end , skin tingle, or hear "crackling" noises. Do not lie flat on the ground.
- Observe the following basic first aid procedures in managing victims of lighting strike:
- Survey the scene for safety.
- Activate local EMS.
- Lightning victims do not 'carry a charge' and are safe to touch.
- If necessary, move the victim with care to a safer location.
- Evaluate airway, breathing, and circulation, and begin CPR if necessary.
- Evaluate and treat for hypothermia, shock, fractures and/or burns.
- All individuals have the right to leave an athletic site in order to seek a safe structure if the person feels in danger of impending lightning activity, without fear of repercussions or penalty form anyone.