Lightning Preparedness for Athletics

August 31, 2020

By Stephanie Davey, MEd, ATC, PES
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Health Sports Medicine

Summer in Charleston means beaches, boats, and unpredictable weather. Anyone who has spent summers in the southeast knows you should always be prepared for pop up thunderstorms. These storms can turn dangerous when lightning occurs and you’re not prepared. According to the National Weather Service, there are more than 25 million lightning strikes in the United States a year. It kills more than 20 people and injures 100s of people per year. So far in 2020, 12 people have been killed by lightning strikes.

It is especially important for coaches to be prepared for any changes in the weather. If your team is practicing outside, they should have a plan for what to do if lightning is in the area.

Your plan should include the following details.

  • One person should be making the decision to remove individuals to safety.
  • Identify one person to monitor the weather conditions.
  • Use a reliable source to monitor the weather. There are many reliable apps that monitor local weather or you can purchase a lightning detector.
  • Identify safe locations to go when lightning occurs. Fully enclosed buildings or fully enclosed vehicles are considered safe spots during lightning storms.
  • Establish specific criteria for suspending the activity. Generally, it’s advised to move to a safe spot when lightning is 8-10 miles away from your location. Consider extending that distance if your safe spot is far from your field or you have a large amount of people to move.
  • Activity can safely be resumed 30 minutes after the final lightning strike.

Make sure all coaches are aware of and understand the plan for lightning. Be prepared and stay safe. When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!!