NOAA 2002-037
Contact: Andrew Freedman
NOAA News Releases 2002
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs

Safety Highlighted during Lightning Awareness Week

NOAA National Weather Service, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is teaming its lightning experts with educators to increase awareness of the risks posed by lightning during the Second Annual Lightning Safety Awareness Week, which kicks off on April 28. Its main goal is teaching lightning safety skills to millions of children in the United States.

Lightning is the second deadliest weather-related killer in the United States, averaging 73 deaths per year. In addition, hundreds more are injured, many with serious and lasting impacts on their quality of life.
Coordinated by Jim Vavrek, a longtime Hammond, Ind., eighth grade science teacher, the Lightning Safety Awareness Week Education Team is working with teachers' groups and NOAA National Weather Service meteorologists across the country to spread the word that "Lightning Kills: Play it Safe!"

"Knowledge saves lives. Our goal is to make the K-12 students and their teachers and coaches aware of the dangers of lightning, and more importantly, how to protect themselves and others from this threat," Vavrek said.

"In the United States, lightning deaths and injuries occur most frequently in open fields, including ballparks, and playgrounds. Lightning safety is crucial for schools, since many have activities in open fields such as recess on the playgrounds and athletic fields," said John Ogren, meteorologist in charge of the Indianapolis NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office and a Lightning Safety Awareness Week national organizer.

Ogren said people are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes when a storm is approaching or exiting their area.

"Lightning can actually strike over 10 miles away from a thunderstorm. The easiest rule to follow is ‘If you hear it, clear it...if you see it, flee it.' It is then safe to go back outside again 30 minutes after the last thunder or lightning," he said.

The centerpiece of Lightning Safety Awareness Week is a comprehensive lightning safety website, The site contains interesting facts about lightning, and detailed information on where to seek shelter when thunderstorms threaten. It is a resource available throughout the year for students, teachers, and the public. On the website, visitors can download video presentations on everything from the causes of lightning to the medical consequences of being a lightning-strike victim. Survivor stories and a public service announcement featuring pro golfer Rocco Mediate are available.

The Second Lightning Safety Awareness Week runs until May 4.

Some Lightning Safety Tips:

  • Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of lightning, or increasing wind, which may be signs of an approaching thunderstorm. Coaches and other leaders should listen to NOAA Weather Radio for a severe weather tone-alert during practice sessions and games.
  • Don't wait for rain to postpone outdoor activities: Many people take shelter from the rain, but most people struck by lightning are not in the rain. Go quickly inside a completely enclosed building, not a carport, open garage or covered patio. If no enclosed building is convenient, get inside a hard-topped all-metal vehicle.
  • Places to avoid include: Under or close to trees, sheds, picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, bleachers, open fields. If there is no shelter, crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from a tree as it is tall. Also stay away from clothes lines, fences, exposed sheds and electrically conductive elevated objects.
  • Get out of the water, it's a great conductor of electricity. Stay off the beach and out of small boats or canoes. If caught in a boat, crouch down in the center away from metal hardware. Swimming, wading, snorkling and scuba diving are NOT safe. Lightning can strike the water and travel some distance beneath and away from its point of contact. Don't stand in puddles of water.

NOAA National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy. To learn more about NOAA National Weather Service, please visit