How To Deal With Deadly Lightning During An Event

These 7 steps to lightning safety follow guidelines used by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (ncs4.com), and the Event Safety Alliance (eventsafetyalliance.org).

They should be part of your Emergency Action Plan. If you don’t have an Emergency Action Plan, get in touch with me.

  1. Identify minimum safe evacuation radius. 8 miles or 13 km is considered the absolute minimum. Don’t worry about the flash-to- bang time or counting in an attempt to determine distance.
    Your goal is to complete the evacuation before the storm reaches this distance.
  2. Be flexible with the minimum safe evacuation radius.
    Account for audience sizes, evacuation routes, shelter etc. Increasing it to 10 miles or 16 km gives you more time to secure the venue.
  3. Identify dangerous places.
    Such as lighting towers, scaffolding, tents, vendor carts, cherry pickers etc. You must move people away from these areas to safe structures.
  4. Identify safe structures.
    These are cars, buses and buildings with plumbing or electrical wiring. Once inside a safe area, don’t touch any metal objects such as window frames, faucets etc.
  5. Designate a weather officer to monitor weather conditions.
    This person should have contact with a professional meteorologist. Their main responsibilities are:
    – to keep eyes and ears to the sky,
    – to be the liaison with a professional meteorologist or service,
    – and to communicate any weather threats to staff and persons-in-charge.
  6. Have a Lightning Safety Plan.
    This contains communications protocols for:
    – notification of lightning risk,
    – lightning threat,
    – and lightning evacuation.
    This is part of your  Emergency Action Plan
  7. Provide lighting safety and first aid training for all staff.
    Your staff should understand the Emergency Action Plan before an event begins.

When lightning is forecast for the day of your event, the weather officer and command staff should use any or all means to communicate the possibility of threatening weather to the attendees, and the safety precautions that will take place if needed before bad weather hits the event.

Remember: communicating with your attendees saves lives!