The American Meteorological Society wants the American public to understand the serious hazard posed by lightning and what it needs to do to be safe. All of us, and especially people responsible for the safety of others, need to be well informed about lightning safety. Operators of large venues need to have lightning-safety plans and establish lightning-safety procedures.
Lightning is the third-leading cause of storm-related deaths in the United States (after floods and tornadoes). About 300 people are struck each year in the United States. Of those, about 30 people are killed while some others suffer lifelong, debilitating injuries. Fortunately, the vast majority of lightning deaths and injuries can be prevented by following several simple guidelines. This policy statement is intended as a short summary of the current consensus among those actively involved in lightning safety for both individuals and groups.
Public education can reduce lightning casualties in the United States. The meteorological community needs to continue its efforts to raise public awareness of the lightning hazard and motivate people to practice good lightning safety. Given the relative ease, low cost, and great effectiveness of the lightning-safety guidelines, we call on all meteorologists, especially those within the broadcast, public education, and emergency preparedness communities, to promote lightning-safety education. Presenting a consistent, science-based approach is important. The emphasis of these efforts should be for people to reach a safe place before the lightning threat arrives. Most lightning casualties in the United States occur near lightning-safe locations, so people need to react quickly to the developing threat to reach a safe place. If people would head to a lightning-safe location just a few minutes earlier, lightning casualties in the United States could be significantly reduced.
The following are recommendations for the public to follow.
Before the storm:
If you are not in a safe place:
If someone is struck:
Important points to remember:
Helpful lightning-safety slogans:
More information is available online on the National Weather Service lightning-safety website (www.weather.gov/safety/lightning).
[This statement is considered in force until July 2023 unless superseded by a new statement issued by the AMS Council before this date.]