lightning-msg - 3/30/00
Lightning precautions while camping.
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.
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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
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