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Schools Taking Steps to Implement Lightning Safety

Every year school districts are threatened by severe weather including lightning, which puts students and faculty in jeopardy.

Without an appropriate weather alert system, students and faculty are playing a guessing game with Mother Nature. While many Bergen County schools are equipped with lightning detectors on their campuses, not all are – which is a main concern.

Rick Thompson, Lightning Protection Coordinator of Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida, is an advocate of keeping students and faculty safe.

“I always wondered why someone didn’t do something and then I realized I was someone,” said Thompson, a lightning strike victim on the NWS Lightning Safety Success Stories website.

Schools have to be aware of how to react in situations where lightning is present. It is essential that schools adopt a training program.

According to Thompson, training in school settings should include:

  • Lightning safety videos produced for all ages to understand and be part of a scheduled educational cirriculum.
  • Lightning safety and CPR certification courses should be mandatory for coaches and others in charge of outdoor events/activities.
  • Educational organizations should have a certified Lightning Safety Professional to implement and maintain a lightning safety program.

Many schools across the nation are taking steps to implement lightning safety initiatives.

Loudoun County Schools in Virginia and Broward County Schools in Florida are just two school systems in the country that are taking that next step.

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Lightning Threatens School Fun

It’s hard to be the parent, teacher, coach, or umpire that has to call the game and end the fun; however, someone has to do it when lightning is in the area.

Schools have a high concentration of students, teachers, and the public at any given time. Specifically individuals are present during outdoor school events such as football games, track meets, and graduations.

In order to prevent bodily injury, school administrations must be aware of lightning safety. Further schools should provide a specialized lightning protection program.

A lightning protection program should consist of:

  1. Constantly updated weather reports. Weather reports must be reviewed prior to outdoor events and activities this way an educated decision of whether to postpone or cancel activities can be made promptly.
  2. A chain of command. By having a chain of command present, decisions can be made effectively. When a decision to evacuate is made, the chain of command must be the leaders to ensure safety.
  3. Have an emergency response plan. An emergency response plan should be in place. In addition, it should be known by all individuals present. Drills (similar to fire drills) would ensure knowledge and practice of the plan in place.
  4. Name “safe places.” Students and teachers must know where the closest “safe places” are in relation to outdoor fields.
  5. Learn CPR. Students and teachers should learn CPR in order to assist an individual struck by lightning.

* The tips where combiled based on available research on sites such as The National Weather Service, The National Severe Storm Laboratory, and The National Lightning Safety Institute.

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