Lightning is the most consistent and significant weather hazard that may affect intercollegiate athletics. Within the United States the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that 60-70 fatalities and about 10 times as many injuries occur from lightning strikes every year. While the probability of being struck by lightning is low, the odds are significantly greater when a storm is in the area and proper safety precautions are not followed. Warning signs of severe weather that produces lightning include but are not limited to: high winds, dark skies, sudden drop in temperature. Lightning awareness should be heightened at the first flash of lightning, clap of thunder, and/or the previously mentioned warning signs of severe weather, no matter how far away. Education and prevention are the keys to lightning safety.
This policy is adapted from the NCAA Guidelines for Lightning Safety, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement: Lightning safety for athletics and recreation. It is the responsibility of the athletic administration, athletic training staff, and coaching staff(s) to abide by and enforce the policy.
In accordance with these guidelines an Ashland University Athletic Department, a Staff Member will be responsible to monitor threatening weather and the decision to continue practice or an event. The delineation of responsibilities will be as follows: (1) Game Official (2) Athletic Director, (3) Director of Game Operations, (4) Athletic Training Staff Member, (5) Head Coach, (6) Assistant Coach. The highest ranking staff member present will have the responsibility of enacting the severe weather policy and informing student-athletes to discontinue practice.
Local weather can be monitored prior to and during practices by utilizing various means:
Local television, the internet (weather.com, accuweather.com, weather.gov), and/or cable and satellite weather programming. Using these modes of information we can learn of any “watches” or “warnings” in Ashland and any surrounding counties. A staff athletic trainer will monitor the weather prior to practice beginning, using either the internet or local television programming. If there is a weather concern the coach will be notified and practice will proceed as planned until severe weather moves into the AU campus and surrounding area.
Our Athletic training staff will utilize the Weather Sentry/DTN system and app on our cell phones to monitor any storms with lightning that may develop, and when appropriate, will inform others so each team can be evacuated in a timely manner. It is recommended that all coaches and administrators also opt in to the WeatherSentry alerts so that they are aware of weather issues themselves.
As a minimum, lightning safety experts strongly recommend that by the time the monitor observes 30 seconds or less between seeing the flash of lightning and hearing a clap of thunder, all individuals should have left the athletic site and reached a safer structure location. Thunder may be hard to hear during an event if the competition facility has a large crowd. The existence of a blue sky and absence of rainfall are not guarantees that lightning will not strike. Cellular or cordless phones are safer to use during a lightning storm as compared to landlines.
Evacuation of practice and playing fields should begin immediately at the first sight of lightning, first sound of thunder, or when lightning has been detected within a 10 mile radius as indicated by the WeatherSentry/DTN system. Participants and spectators should not attempt to wait out the lightning or wait for the lightning to get closer. An announcement will be made by the public address announcer for participants and spectators to go to their designated “safe structures” or personal vehicles immediately following the decision to suspend play.
Following evacuation as a result of lightning, the continuation of activity should be approximately 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning or sound of thunder. This time period should allow for the storm’s trailing edge to be a minimum safe distance of 10 miles from the athletic venue and increasing. The 30 minute time period will re-start with each subsequent lightning strike witnessed or identified inside of the 10 mile radius on the WeatherSentry/DTN system. The WeatherSentry/DTN system will send a text alert once the area is clear of lightning. Teams may not resume activity until the “All Clear” notification has been received. Again, even though the skies may be clear there can still be dangerous lightning. Game administrators, home and visiting coaches, game officials, and athletic trainers will convene immediately following the evacuation of the respective site to monitor the weather forecast and discuss the plan for resumption or potential postponement of play as the weather evolves
If severe weather moves into the area the athletic trainer, coaching staff and student-athletes need to know where the closest “safe structure” is located. 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). In the absence of a sturdy, frequently used building, (any vehicle with a hard metal roof neither a convertible nor a golf cart) with the windows shut provides a measure of safety.
Dangerous locations that are NOT safe from lightning would include small shelters such as: small rain shelters, dugouts, golf shelters, and picnic shelters. Even if these buildings are properly grounded for structural safety they are not properly grounded from the effects of lightning and side flashes that can injure people.
The following are acceptable Safe Structures for our sports teams:
Baseball: Locker Room @ Sarver Field
M&W Cross Country: Closest Campus Building
Football: Locker Room @ Troop Center
Golf: Golf Course Pro Shop
M&W Soccer: Locker Room @ Troop Center
Softball: Personal Vehicles
Tennis: Troop Center
M&W Track: Troop Center
In case of a person has been struck by lightning, persons being struck do not carry an electrical charge, therefore, it is safe for a responder to perform CPR. If possible, move the injured person to a safer environment prior to beginning CPR. Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) are also safe to use on a lightning strike victim if they are experiencing cardiac arrest. However, CPR should never be delayed until an AED is located. If further assistance is needed, contact AU Safety Services (419.207.5555), or call 911.