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Lightning Kills ... Play it Safe

We are just entering the summer soccer scene tournaments, travel, sunshine and, sometimes, thunderstorms. Thunderstorms bring not just rain and wind, but also lightning. While the rain, wind and hail can make a mess, the most dangerous feature of thunderstorms is lightning.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says that each year approximately 400 people are struck by lightning and 55-60 of those will die from the lightning strike. Most of those tragic deaths could have been prevented by taking proper precautions.

Here are some important facts about lightning from NOAA:

All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous.
Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall. Many lightning deaths occur ahead of storms or after storms have seemingly passed.

If you can hear thunder, you are in danger.
Don't be fooled by blue skies. If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose an immediate threat.

Avoid Lightning Injury

  1. Get to a safe place.
    If you hear thunder, even a distant rumble, immediately move to a safe place.
    • Fully enclosed buildings with wiring and plumbing provide the best protection.
    • Sheds, picnic shelters, tents or covered porches do NOT protect you from lightning.
    • If a sturdy building is not nearby, get into a hard-topped metal vehicle and close all the windows. Stay inside until 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.

  2. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm:
    • Avoid open areas. Don't be the tallest object in the area.
    • Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or utility poles. Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an area.
    • Stay away from metal conductors such as wires or fences. Metal does not attract lightning, but lightning can travel long distances through it.
    • If you are with a group of people, spread out. While this actually increases the chance that someone might get struck, it tends to prevent multiple casualties, and increases the chances that someone could help if a person is struck
  3. If someone is struck by lightning:
    • Call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance
    • Give first aid. Check the victim's pulse and breathing and begin CPR if necessary.
    • If possible, move the victim to a safer place. An active thunderstorm is still dangerous. Don't let the rescuers become victims. Lightning CAN strike the same place twice.
  4. What you can do as a parent, coach or administrator:
    • Be alert to the weather. Reschedule or cancel games or practices when thunderstorms come up. A thunderstorm may by intense but short-lived. Postponing a match until 30 minutes after the last sounds of thunder may be enough to allow play to continue.
    • Have an action plan for bad weather. Know where the nearest safe shelter is located.
    • When you hear thunder, get to safety. You do not need to see the flash of lightning to be in danger.
    • Be informed and help spread the word about lightning danger. Make sure that coaches, administrators, and event organizers are aware of the possible danger and have an action plan for lightning.

For more information about lightning safety, see the NOAA website at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov

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