1.3 Utilizing a Lightning Safety Toolkit at Outdoor Venues

Monday, 24 January 2011: 11:30 AM
602/603 (Washington State Convention Center)
Charlie Woodrum, NOAA/NWS, Pittsburgh, PA; and D. Franklin

The high human capacity in stadiums and other outdoor venues increases the risk of a fatal lightning strike. Despite delayed events due to the threat of lightning, spectators often choose to stay in open, unsafe areas. To address this issue, in May of 2010, a new voluntary recognition program was unveiled by the National Weather Service to help large venues such as golf courses, outdoor sporting arenas, concert pavilions, water parks, raceways, amusement parks, etc., better protect performers, staff, and patrons from the dangers of lightning.

The program has been set up so National Weather Service officials can help venue management develop the proper plans for a lightning delay. The process involves guidelines and a toolkit which can be utilized by the site as a template for creating their plan. With public naivety regarding lightning danger at large outdoor venues during a thunderstorm, this recognition will be utilized in order to help outdoor venues mitigate the risks of a disaster.

Large outdoor venues are being approached across the country by the National Weather Service with this safety plan. Guidelines have been established for these locations to ensure data reception sources, decision support standards, effective communication, a public notification plan, protection program, and education of staff and patrons. To meet these guidelines, a template safety plan is available for the sites to follow before, during, and after the event. To create a safety plan or enhance an existing one, management can fill in this template with the location's site specific information. The resulting document can then be easily and quickly referred to when there is an impending lightning threat to an event.

The guidelines within the toolkit have been set up so a site has several options to protect performers, staff, and patrons. These include disseminating public information, designating shelters, lightning proximity threshold action items, public address system evacuation announcements, and instructions on safely resuming the event. In addition, the guidelines are listed in the form of a venue preparation checklist. With this information, locations can move forward with ensuring they have taken proper lightning safety measures.

With lightning injuries and fatalities related to outdoor activities a continued concern, this safety plan can help inform staff and patrons of the threats of lightning and reduce the risk of injury or death. The program also will increase public awareness of lightning hazards and enhance relationships with local emergency managers and the National Weather Service.

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