The implementation of the Lightning Detector requirement is not meant to supplant common sense or to ignore visual sightings of lightning strikes, but rather to be used as an adjunct to increase the safety and well-being of athletes, fans, and officials at outdoor events.
Today’s advanced technology provides relatively reliable devices that can actually detect lightning in the area and give approximate distances from ones location. There are presently no devices that can predict when or where a lightning strike will occur, but rather the recent location and/or distance of a strike. These devices may have a delay up to several minutes, but still give a warning of several miles (minutes) away that would otherwise be unknown.
The lightning devices should be monitored closely once lightning is detected within a 40-mile radius. These new guidelines will take the initial responsibility of lightning detection away from the game officials so they can concentrate on their officiating duties and place it with the “host” game administrator. The host school officials’ are responsible for the correct operational guidelines of their lightning detection device and are responsible for maintaining it in a proper working condition.
- Each school will have an emergency plan in place that addresses the evacuation of athletes and spectators to a safe location within a reasonable time should a lightning threat be present. The amount of time it takes to evacuate spectators properly to a safe location should also be considered when recommending an postponement due to lightning. A brief description of the plan may be put in the program for spectators and fans to review while at an activity. The plan should be briefly explained by the game announcer if there is no program for the event.
- These guidelines should also be enforced and utilized at athletic practices. It is the head coaches’ responsibility to have the Lightning Detector activated and monitored when there is a chance for severe weather in the area. The head coach will be responsible for getting the athletes and ancillary personnel into a safe facility within a reasonable time when lightning is within 10 miles of the practice location.
- The host Game Administrator (GA) will be responsible for having the lightning detector operational for outdoor events. The GA will monitor or appoint a responsible individual to monitor the device and sky conditions for lightning.
- Once a lightning strike has been detected within 15 miles, the GA will then notify the officials; and the GA, Principal (if available) and official will make the decision to postpone the game using all resources available to them, i.e., lightning detector, visual warnings, radar etc. If the lightning is detected within 10 miles of the event, the activity will be postponed and all evacuation guidelines will be put into effect. The decision to resume the game/practice should also use the same criteria. If the officials’ desire, they may use the existing 30/30 policy.
- All individuals should have the right to leave an athletic site or activity, without fear of repercussion or penalty, in order to seek a safe structure or location if they believe they are in danger from impending lightning activity.