IHSA Severe Weather Safety Guidelines

To be used during any IHSA state series contest
Adopted June 11, 2007

When thunder is heard, or a cloud–to-ground lightning bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning.  Take shelter immediately.

Lightning is one of the most consistent and underrated causes of weather-related deaths or injury in the United States.  Nearly all lightning-related injuries occur between the months of May and September and between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Therefore, the greatest concern for injuries in an outdoor contest appears to be during that time, though it can happen any time of year.

Advance Planning

Local Managers should have a documented plan in place, designated people who are responsible for monitoring the weather and a qualified person (typically a trained manager and/or officials) to make the decision to suspend play.   In state series competitions, the local manager or official(s), if assigned, can make the decision to suspend play.

Monitoring Weather

Local Managers during the contest should be aware of any potential thunderstorms that may form during the competition; if an evacuation is needed, managers should also know how long it would take teams to get to their safest location.  Monitoring the weather with a weather alert radio, or with lightning detection systems, or any other available means, is recommended.

Lightning Awareness

Generally speaking, it is felt that anytime a cloud-to-ground strike of lightning can be seen, or thunder heard, risk is already present.  It is time to seek shelter.

Criteria for Suspending Play

If the local management does not have commercial weather warning equipment at the site or an efficient method of making an accurate, timely decision on location, listening for thunder is the best way to mitigate the danger.  If thunder is heard, or lightning is seen hitting the ground, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike in your location. According to the National Weather Service. Lightning can strike 10 miles away from the parent thunderstorm.  When thunder roars, go indoors!   It is important that local manager monitor not only how far away the lightning is but also how fast it is approaching.  Thunderstorms can form and move quickly and danger can arrive quickly.

Evacuation Plan

Safe Areas: All personnel, athletes and spectators should be clearly informed of available safe structures or shelters in the event a thunderstorm approaches.  A safe structure is any fully enclosed building frequently used by people.  In absence of that – athletes and spectators should go to any vehicle with a hard metal roof.  Roll up the windows and do not touch the sides of the vehicle.   If no safe structure or vehicle is available, find a thick grove of small trees surrounded by taller trees or a dry ditch.  Assume a crouched position on the ground with only the balls of your feet touching the ground.  Wrap your arms around your knees and lower your head.  Minimize contact to the ground since lightning often travels through the ground.

Avoid: Tall trees or objects like light poles or flagpoles, individual trees, standing pools of water and open fields.  Also avoid being the highest object on the field.  Do not take shelter under trees.  Avoid bathrooms if another building is available, and do not use a land-line telephone.  A cellular phone or portable phone is a safe alternative if in a secure shelter or vehicle.

Resuming Activity

The NSSL (National Severe Storms Laboratory) recommends that everyone should wait at least 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning or sound of thunder before returning to the field or activity.