NWS program promotes lightning safety

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The National Weather Service has a new program out designed to help keep Hoosiers safe from the dangers of lightning.

Lightning safety is a huge concern for parents, especially after a Seymour High School freshman was struck by lightning last Thursday during softball practice. That strike was a reminder that lightning can travel for several miles before reaching a target. Storms were approaching, but skies were clear in Seymour when the incident took place.

The safest rule is that when you hear thunder, go inside. Lightning can strike when skies are sunny, as far as ten miles away from rainfall and, in some extreme cases, from as far as 25 miles away.

In order to make sure there are fewer people caught off-guard, the National Weather Service is encouraging the use of lightning safety tool kits and has started a voluntary recognition program for schools, businesses and other large venues.

"The plan includes having an idea of what's going on weather-wise, having a location that you can go to when storms are approaching and the lightning threat becomes real," said Warning Coordination Meteorologist Dave Tucek.

As part of the lightning safety tool kit, businesses are required to monitor the weather using at least three different weather services. That can be either local television news coverage, cable, Internet, satellite or commercial services, NOAA weather radio, or National Weather Service forecasts.

Also, the venue must have a detailed written safety plan, several means to notify people a lightning threat exists and a place to shelter people. This would include a written emergency operations evacuation plan and signs to direct them to lightning-safe areas.

"As far as the number of fatalities, flooding is number one, tornadoes crept up into the number two case and lightning falls to number three," said Tucek.

Lightning injuries can lead to permanent disability or even death. On the average, 70 percent of survivors suffer serious long-term effects and 10 percent of victims die, so it's important for everyone to prepare before lightning strikes.

Several years ago, the National Weather Service launched a campaign to help people remember lightning safety tips. Using the catchphrase "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors," they urge you to stop all activities and immediately seek shelter as soon as you hear thunder. You should also wait at least 30 minutes after the last sign of the storm to resume activities.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association has guidelines in place for severe weather. At the first sign of lightning or thunder, all play must stop and then the 30-minute rule kicks in.

Surviving the Storm - More tips on staying safe in severe weather