In the United States, an average number of 42 people die every year due to lightning, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Many of these deaths were of individuals engaging in outdoor sports and activities.
In 2014 alone, 19 deaths of outdoor enthusiasts killed by lightning have already been listed. The years 2006 to 2013 saw the greatest number of sports-related lightning deaths from soccer.
Due to this, the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) has released an updated set of lightning safety guidelines. Katie Walsh Flanagan of East Carolina University, who also chairs the guidelines committee, said that it is crucial for any outdoor buff to have knowledge and awareness of lightning danger to be ably prepared.
The guidelines are published in the Journal of Athletic Training of the National Athletic Trainers' Association and they include the following:
- Time how long it takes to get to safe locations and plan accordingly.
- Establish guidelines for suspending and resuming sports or activities. Do not go back outdoors until at least 30 minutes after the last lightning strike or sound of thunder.
- In large sports venues, have a safety plan for spectators, including a plan for safe and orderly evacuation to previously identified safe locations, and know how long it will take to move them out of the facility.
- If someone is struck by lightning, move them to a safe location when possible. If an automated external defibrillator is available, use it on victims who don't have a pulse or are unconscious.
In line with this, the National Weather Service together with NOAA has been equally adamant in ensuring the lightning safety of outdoor enthusiasts. Their own set of guidelines, which are not only applicable to outdoor sports enthusiasts but to everyone, highlight the importance of staying indoors. Stopping all kinds of outdoor activities during thunderstorms is the first step towards lightning safety, according to agency.