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lightning-msg - 3/30/00


Lightning precautions while camping.


NOTE: See also the files: ticks-art, evnt-stewards-msg, firepits-msg, camp-ovens-msg, camp-kitchens-msg, camp-showers-msg, privvies-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the individual authors.


Please respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear  at this time. If information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 13:13:12 MST

From: "Leslie Miller" <Miller at pp.okstate.edu>

Subject: ANST - Lightning safety - long

To: ansteorra at ansteorra.org


At Gulf Wars last week, the decision was made by one of the marshals

to stop the rapier melees because of an impending thunderstorm.  


When this decision was made, I heard many remarks from participants

to the effect of, "What an idiot!  It wasn't even raining!  The storm wasn't

even overhead!  This guy is paranoid!"  etc.


As a mundane safety professional and several year storm spotter for the

city of Stillwater, these comments alarmed me, because to my mind,

the marshal made the absolutely correct decision to cancel the melees

when he did.


So, because I care very much for the health and safety of my fellow

SCAers, I thought this might be an appropriate time to conduct some

lightning safety education.  


Because I've already been looked at like I had three heads for saying

that lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from the main storm; I have

copied the proceeds of the multi-agency recommendations for lightning

safety based on the proceeds from the American Meteorological

Society Conference,  Phoenix, Arizona, 1998.  I trust that this will serve

as a sufficiently authoritative source.  I have edited the full article for

brevity, but it is available at:



They recommend teaching this slogan: "If you can see it - flee it; if you

can hear it - clear it."





On average, lightning causes more casualties annually in the US than

any other storm related phenomena, except floods. Many people incur

injuries or are killed due to misinformation and inappropriate behavior

during thunderstorms. A few simple precautions can reduce many of the

dangers posed by lightning. In order to standardize recommended

actions during thunderstorms, a group of qualified experts from various

backgrounds collectively have addressed personal safety in regard to

lightning, based on recently improved understanding of thunderstorm


Safer Locations during Thunderstorms and Locations to Avoid


No place is absolutely safe from the lightning threat, however, some

places are safer than others. Large enclosed structures (substantially

constructed buildings) tend to be much safer than smaller or open

structures. The risk for lightning injury depends on whether the structure

incorporates lightning protection, construction materials used, and the

size of the structure (see NFPA 780, Appendix E & H). In general, fully

enclosed metal vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses, vans, fully

enclosed farm vehicles, etc. with the windows rolled up provide good

shelter from lightning. Avoid contact with metal or conducting surfaces

outside or inside the vehicle.  


             AVOID being in or near:


High places and open fields, isolated trees, unprotected gazebos, rain

or picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, communications towers, flagpoles,

light poles, bleachers (metal or wood), metal fences, convertibles, golf

carts, water (ocean, lakes, swimming pools, rivers, etc.).  


             When inside a building AVOID:


Use of the telephone, taking a shower, washing your hands, doing

dishes, or any contact with conductive surfaces with exposure to the

outside such as metal door or window frames, electrical wiring,

telephone wiring, cable TV wiring, plumbing, etc.  


             Safety Guidelines for Individuals


Generally speaking, if an individual can see lightning and/or hear

thunder he/she is already at risk. Louder or more frequent thunder

indicates that lightning activity is approaching, increasing the risk for

lightning injury or death. If the time delay between seeing the flash

(lightning) and hearing the bang (thunder) is less than 30 seconds, the

individual should be in, or seek a safer location (see Safer Locations

during Thunderstorms and Locations to Avoid). Be aware that this

method of ranging has severe limitations in part due to the difficulty of

associating the proper thunder to the corresponding flash.  


High winds, rainfall, and cloud cover often act as precursors to actual

cloud-to-ground strikes notifying individuals to take action. Many

lightning casualties occur in the beginning, as the storm approaches,

because people ignore these precursors. Also, many lightning

casualties occur after the perceived threat has passed. Generally, the

lightning threat diminishes with time after the last sound of thunder, but

may persist for more than 30 minutes. When thunderstorms are in the

area but not overhead, the lightning threat can exist even when it is

sunny, not raining, or when clear sky is visible.  


Recognize that personal observation of lightning may not be sufficient;

additional information such as a lightning detection system or additional

weather information may be required to ensure consistency, accuracy,

and adequate advance warning.  


Remember, lightning is always generated and connected to a

thundercloud but may strike many miles from the edge of the

thunderstorm cell. Acceptable downtime (time of alert state) has to be

balanced with the risk posed by lightning. Accepting responsibility for

larger groups of people requires more sophistication and diligence to

assure that all possibilities are considered.  


             First Aid Recommendations for Lightning victims


Most lightning victims can actually survive their encounter with lightning,

especially with timely medical treatment. Individuals struck by lightning

do not carry a charge and it is safe to touch them to render medical

treatment. Follow these steps to try to save the life of a lightning victim:  




Call 911 to provide directions and information about the likely number of





The first tenet of emergency care is "make no more casualties". If the

area where the victim is located is a high risk area (mountain top,

isolated tree, open field, etc.) with a continuing thunderstorm, the

rescuers may be placing themselves in significant danger.  




It is relatively unusual for victims who survive a lightning strike to have

major fractures that would cause paralysis or major bleeding

complications unless they have suffered a fall or been thrown a

distance. As a result, in an active thunderstorm, the rescuer needs to

choose whether evacuation from very high risk areas to an area of lesser

risk is warranted and should not be afraid to move the victim rapidly if

necessary. Rescuers are cautioned to minimize their exposure to

lightning as much as possible.  




If the victim is not breathing, start mouth to mouth resuscitation. If it is

decided to move the victim, give a few quick breaths prior to moving

them. Determine if the victim has a pulse by checking the pulse at the

carotid artery (side of the neck) or femoral artery (groin) for at least 20-

30 seconds. If no pulse is detected, start cardiac compressions as well.

In situations that are cold and wet, putting a protective layer between

the victim and the ground may decrease the hypothermia that the victim

suffers which can further complicate the resuscitation. In wilderness

areas and those far from medical care, prolonged basic CPR is of little

use: the victim is unlikely to recover if they do n ot respond within the

first few minutes. If the pulse returns, the rescuer should continue

ventilation with rescue breathing if needed for as long as practical in a

wilderness situation. However, if a pulse does not return after twenty t o

thirty minutes of good effort, the rescuer should not feel guilty about

stopping resuscitation.  




Avoid unnecessary exposure to the lightning threat during thunderstorm

activity. Follow these safety recommendations to reduce the overall

number of lightning casualties. An individual ultimately must take

responsibility for his or her own safety and should take appropriate

action when threatened by lightning. School teachers, camp

counselors, coaches, lifeguards, and other adults must take

responsibility for the safety of children in their care. A weather radio and

the use of lightning detection data in conjunction with an action plan are

prudent components of a lightning warning policy, especially when

larger groups and/or longer evacuation times are involved."


The article also discusses action plans for large outdoor gatherings, so

seneschals and autocrats who may be interested in such things might

want to check it out.


There are additional websites with lightning safety information:


The National Lightning Safety Institute:



The National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN):



The National Severe Storms Laboratory lightning page:



Sabrina's Lightning Strike Page (great for kids):



I apologize for the length of this missive, but I hope that it has been






<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org