345 NOAA's New Lightning Fatality Database and Applications in Lightning Safety Education

Monday, 7 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
William P. Roeder, Private Meteorologist, Rockledge, FL; and J. S. Jensenius Jr.

Handout (1009.3 kB)

NOAA has developed a new high-quality online database of lightning fatalities in the U.S. covering the period from 2006 through 2012. The database currently contains information for 233 lightning fatalities as of 8 Aug 2012. The database is expected to be updated and maintained indefinitely into the future. Lightning fatality reports are typically posted in the database within a few days of a reported fatal event. NOAA utilizes reports from media sources, local National Weather Service offices, and local officials to keep the information in the database accurate and up-to-date. Prior to 2006, NOAA's StormData publication was the primary source for information on lightning fatalities in the U.S. However, the StormData publication is typically available between two and three months after a weather event. In addition, studies have shown inaccuracies and omissions in the StormData information. The new database provides a source for both more accurate and more timely information and is available to the public at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/statistics.htm. The database is also now used to quality control the reports entered into StormData. NOAA's lightning database provides several opportunities for improved lightning safety education. For the media, it provides a source of up-to-date fatality information that can be used in news stories on recent lightning incidents. For anyone speaking about lightning safety, it provides a source of recent lightning incidents that can make the training more topical and timely for the audience and thus more interesting and more memorable. The database can also be used to infer lightning fatality patterns in order to tailor the safety message to audiences. For example, one of the authors (Roeder) taught lightning safety to 150 school teachers in Alabama and this database was used to note that that state appeared to have more lightning fatalities from fishing than average. Finally, a new set of lightning safety education visual aids is being developed from this new database. These new visual aids will improve lightning safety education in the U.S. by offering consistent information from this high-quality database and in a top-quality consistent graphic style. These new visual aids are already being used by the U.S. lightning safety education community and will be presented at this conference.
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