Lightning Danger: When Should Coaching Stop in a Storm?

Let’s Start Taking Lightning Safety Seriously

When a storm occurs during a coaching session, a coach should follow a clear action plan.

Again and again, however, I have been amazed and dismayed at the lack of care that I have seen some coaches take of their athletes and of themselves when lightning and thunder is present.

I have seen coaches leave it far too long to seek cover as a storm approaches. I have watched coaches continue coaching through a storm. I have witnessed coaches briefly take cover during the worst of a storm only to take the field again when the rain stops but there is still lightning about. In fact it is often rain, not lightning, on which some coaches base their decision about when to stop and start a session. It appears that some coaches are more concerned by rain and the prospect of getting wet than by lightning and the possibility of being struck.

It appears that some coaches are more concerned by rain and the prospect of getting wet than by lightning and the possibility of being struck.

So when should a coach evacuate a field when a storm is around? The best way for you to find an answer is to research whether your sport has a lightning policy. If it does, I recommend you learn it and follow it. As a track and field coach in Australia, I follow the Little Athletics NSW Lightning Policy.

It recommends that in the the case of a thunderstorm the “30 – 30 rule” should be observed.

The 30-30 Rule

Watch the below video for a 1 minute explanation of the 30-30 Rule:

Therefore:

  • Once the ‘flash to bang’ (lightning to thunder) reaches 30 seconds or less, all activities should be postponed and all individuals instructed to take appropriate shelter.
  • Activities should not resume until at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder or flash of lightning, and conditions are completely safe.
  • Each time lightning is observed or thunder is heard, the 30 minute clock should be re-started.

Some people may think that these recommendations are extreme. But as the policy outlines:

  • Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may strike as far as fifteen kilometres from any rainfall.
  • Any time thunder is heard, the thunderstorm is close enough to pose an immediate lightning threat to your location.
  • When thunderstorms are in the area but not overhead, the lightning threat can still exist even when overhead it is sunny, not raining, or when clear sky is visible.

Have you ever wondered where the saying “Like a bolt out of the blue” came from? It describes the situation of a lightning strike occurring despite there being blue sky overhead.

“Like a bolt out of the blue” describes lightning occurring despite blue sky overhead.

All thunderstorms are potentially dangerous. Coaches must be prepared to take appropriate action when they occur.

Let’s start taking lightning safety seriously.

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Help spread the word about lighting safety by sharing this article.

Further reading

Little Athletics NSW Lightning Policy

20150614_154020-1Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin , Instagram or via email.

Subscribe for FREE to the Coaching Young Athletes monthly newsletter HERE.

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