NOAA Kicks Off Lightning Safety Campaign

The U.S. has seen four lightning deaths so far this year—all male—with three struck while fishing.

NOAA’s National Weather Service is taking its lightning safety message to the “lightning capital of the country” – Tampa, Fla., a city with more lightning strikes than any other in the nation. As the agency launches its annual lightning safety awareness campaign June 24, it reminds people when outdoors for work or play to go inside at the first sound of thunder.

“The message of this campaign is simple: If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you—go indoors immediately,” said Donna Franklin, National Weather Service lightning campaign manager. “It’s tragic when people die because they stayed on the water fishing or on the golf course one minute longer than they should have. Being a victim of a lightning strike is a preventable tragedy that the National Weather Service is determined to stop as part of our efforts to build a Weather-Ready Nation.”

Lightning kills 54 people per year in the United States on average, but it strikes hundreds more who are often left with lifelong debilitating injuries. The U.S. has seen four lightning deaths so far this year—all male—with three struck while fishing. About 80 percent of lightning victims are male, and about 60 percent of victims are struck when participating in sports or leisure activities.

The National Weather Service has developed three lightning safety toolkits to help communities and organizations better protect citizens, patrons, and employees during thunderstorms:

  • A toolkit for large outdoor event venues targets places like sports stadiums, amusement parks, fairgrounds, and golf courses.
  • A toolkit for outdoor community preparedness is directed at county or city outdoor facilities, such as parks and swimming pools.
  • A toolkit for beach patrols and lifeguards—recently adopted by the U.S. Lifesaving Association—focuses on beach locations.

These toolkits encourage venue managers to adopt lightning policies, safety, and communications plans; provide patrons with safe shelter and education materials; and post signs reminding people to go indoors when they hear thunder.

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