Each year thunderstorms produce an estimated 20 to 25 million cloud to ground lightning flashes in the United States. The National Weather Service says around 30 people are killed by lightning each year. Hundreds more are injured. Not surprisingly, about 65 percent of those deaths are associated with outdoor recreational activities.
Fortunately, most athletic associations have rigid guidelines on when to call the game. The showstopper would be if you see lightning. Strikes can occur 6 to 10 miles from the base of a storm cloud. The rumble of thunder is another indicator that you should take cover. Lastly, a storm can develop in minutes in an unstable atmosphere. If the sky looks threatening, take precautions.
The best place to go inside is a substantial building with wiring and plumbing. Good shelter examples would be schools, office buildings and homes. Dugouts, small outdoor buildings and shed type structures are not considered safe. If there are no structures around, a car with a metal roof can provide decent protection.
Experts agree that people should wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap before resuming play. The decision to suspend or resume the game because of weather should not rest on the coach or referee but rather with a designated weather monitor who can focus and check radar and local updates.
What if the worst happens and lightning does strike nearby injuring people? Victims need immediate attention and a 911 call should be made. Most victims can survive a strike but CPR or an AED may be needed to revive them. Naturally, try to move the injured inside away from the storm. You can’t be shocked by a person who has been struck by lightning.
Spring sports are fun for the player and the fans on the sidelines but be weather aware when skies are gray. Take note of your surroundings and where your safe place would be if severe weather is in your area.