Evolving Outdoor Safety with Lightning Toolkits

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Monday, 5 January 2015: 5:00 PM
221A-C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Charlie Woodrum, NOAA/NWS, Silver Spring, MD; and M. Kyle, E. Bentley, and K. K. Oudeman

A Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) cannot be built unless our country's outdoor venues are ready for any weather-related hazard. The most common and deadly weather hazard that impacts outdoor activities is lightning. The threat of lightning strikes resulting in serious injury or death at outdoor venues continues to be a pressing concern for event managers. Several delays have been documented in the past 5 years in which spectators did not have enough time to evacuate, or chose to wait out delays in unsafe locations. To address this issue, the National Weather Service (NWS) developed a lightning safety toolkit and recognition program. This program helps meteorologists work with venue officials to encourage sound and proactive decisions when thunderstorms threaten their venue.

The toolkit provides guidance used by venues to develop a plan specifically for lightning in addition to the other weather hazards that threaten stadiums. Many large national organizations have embraced the toolkit and encouraged their members to adopt and modify it to meet the specific needs of their local venue. Organizations that adopted plans locally range from little leagues to ski resorts.

Although the large gatherings that often gain the most attention for impacts from lightning are sporting events in large stadiums, there are other vulnerable public venues impacted which have resulted in more fatalities. In the past 5 years alone, the United States recorded 15 lightning fatalities related to fishing and 9 fatalities on beaches. Thus, the toolkit has enabled meteorologists to create new templates designed specifically for communities, golf courses, lifeguards, and beach patrols.

With the expansion to new communities, there is now the opportunity to help Build a Weather-Ready Nation through the utilization of these toolkits by WRN Ambassadors. Through the use of the toolkits developed, the StormReady®/TsunamiReady® programs, and future adaptations of the toolkits, outdoor planners now have the necessary guidance available to them to create plans and execute them effectively during events. Although the tools are available, many still are unaware that these plans exist. Thus, to help these vulnerable locations become more resilient, the meteorology community and WRN Ambassadors must educate partners and help them go the final mile to ensure effective plans are in place.

Supplementary URL: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/more.htm