Monday, Jun 24, 2013
The National Weather Service has declared this week – June 23rd to June 29th – to be Lightning Safety Awareness Week. The theme this year is “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.”
Summer is the peak season for lightning, one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena. Although lightning strikes peak in summer, people are hit by lightning year round. In the United States, an average of 54 people are killed each year by lightning, and hundreds more are severely injured.
In a typical year, a number of these injuries and deaths occur in national parks. Statistics from the Office of Risk Management’s visitor injury data system for 2009 to 2011 show nine deaths and 47 injuries at 11 areas that reported such incidents – Biscayne, Bryce Canyon, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Petrified Forest, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone and Yosemite. These statistics, however, do not represent all lightning-related injuries and fatalities.
The Weather Service has established a lightning safety awareness web page that provides a number of useful resources for your park’s lightning safety program:
- A page of lightning safety tips that includes guidance on “last resort outdoor risk reduction tips”
- A link to last year’s two-minute-long YouTube lightning safety video, which points out, among other things, how many people are injured or killed while camping or hiking or otherwise engaged in outdoor activities
- A “More Resources” web page with downloadable videos, posters, photos, brochures and other useful materials
- A page with a 20-page PDF preparedness guide for thunderstorm, tornado and lightning
Another source for information about lightning safety has been established by the National Outdoor Leadership School. Click on this link to go to that website. The fourth brochure on the list, entitled “Lightning Risk Management Brochure,” will soon be sent to those parks that have experienced the highest number of documented lightning incidents.