My “me time” often consists of either working out at the gym (addicted!) or reading fitness/health blogs. I consider Peanut Butter Fingers, The Fitnessista, Bess Be Fit, Sweet Tooth Sweet Life, Healthy Tipping Point and Squats and Squash my friends (just like in real life when I invite friends to a “party,” I’m sure I’m “forgetting” someone).
And, that got me thinking about lightning and indoor aquatics safety…
- If lightning strikes the ground near to an indoor pool, depending upon localized circumstances, it may be conducted into the building via low resistance conductors. (According to insurance information, the ratio of damage due to indirect effects vs. direct effects is a ratio of some 2000:1.)
- Observable lightning effects inside pool buildings have included: main circulation pump destroyed; injuries to employees touching electrical panels; concrete footing of slide blown apart; and visible lightning inside natatorium.
- Six states have recommendations or regulations for suspending indoor pool activities when under lightning threat: Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Michigan. Delaware’s state code reads “during electrical storms the use of a pool (indoor or outdoor) shall be prohibited.”
- National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) describes building interior pool hazards during thunderstorms.
- National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), American College of Emergency Physicians, US Swimming, Inc. and the YMCA Services Corporation all have have recommended indoor pool activity suspension when nearby thunderstorms threaten.
- All pool buildings should be equipped with lightning protection as specified in the most recent version of National Fire Protection Association NFPA-780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems.
(* These “facts” were found via “Lightning and Aquatics Safety: A Cautionary Perspective for Indoor Pools” and their noted references.)
“There is a built-in conflict between indoor pool activities and lightning safety. Both recreational swimming and competitive swimming events are based upon three icons of Entertainment, Health, and Pleasure. Lightning safety is founded on stopping all those forms of enjoyment,” according to President & CEO Richard Kithil of National Lightning Safety Institute.
Tom Griffiths and Matthew Griffith see the situation differently – “The truth is, the practice of clearing indoor pools during outside thunderstorms does not keep people safe and, in many cases, may put them in higher-risk situations.”
In their article, “When Lightning Strikes: Should you close your indoor pool when lightning approaches? The answer may surprise you,” Griffiths and Griffith outlines the higher-risk situations pool-goers experience when their indoor pool is closed due to a storm.
High Risk Situations Due to Indoor Pool Closures:
- When an indoor pool is cleared, guests go to the locker rooms, where they shower before changing. There have been numerous cases of reported shocks and electrocutions of people in showers and bathtubs or at sinks washing their hands. Just standing near metallic plumbing systems and metallic drainage systems carries the possibility of shock (actual documented cases).
- There are inevitably children who need to call for a ride home. Again, there are reports every year of people injured from being shocked while using landline telephones. (This is the mechanism most frequently used by lightning to enter a building.) Even if these practices are banned and monitored, people are still allowed to leave the facility.
- In 98 percent (44 out of 45) of the fatalities attributed to lightning in the United States during 2007, the people were outside. When people leave the facility and run across the parking lot to their car, they are exposed to a direct strike. Car accidents increase as well during thunderstorms due to hazardous road conditions. It is clear that closing indoor pools actually puts people at higher risk of being injured by lightning than allowing them to keep swimming.
The bottom line: People come to an indoor swimming facility to have fun and exercise and it’s nearly impossible to eliminate all risk associated with pools without also eliminating the numerous benefits associated with them.