Lightning Hazards and Students - What would you do?

Lightning as a hazard is often overlooked, and there is a huge gap in knowledge alongside a large proportion of assumed but inaccurate knowledge about lightning strike. An example of this is within the education system,within the UK where teachers who take children out on a variety of field trips, some in outdoor locations where appropriate shelter may not be available such as outdoor fieldwork activities in rural areas, while not knowing what action to take or believing that they can just apply common sense and this will be best. I recently carried out a survey with a variety of teachers (55) and even disaster managers (4) in the United Kingdom who didn't know about the 30/30 rule - see more below, or how to count using the flash-bang method. Many advised getting away from trees, which is sensible advice, as is finding appropriate strong shelter. The idea is to count the number of seconds between the flash and the bang. However there is a common misconception about this! Many think that every second = 1 mile, but it is in fact every 5 seconds = 1 mile. Also I was always taught to lay down flat on the ground. However this is the WRONG thing to do. Now NOAA, the US Army and others talk about the lightning crouch, which is crouching low, on the balls of your feet with your heels together. This is so that if lightning strikes the ground nearby, it goes in one foot to your heel where it the grounds out, missing internal organs such as the heart and brain. People also don't realise that lightning strike victims can be revived by CPR and the strike is not the same as an electric shock from electricity in a house etc. The reason I ask is that the advice many give to kids and teachers believe, is now seen to be VERY out of date. I am currently polling teachers of Physical Education and Geography here in the UK to find out what advice they would give and follow themselves. So far ALL of them have suggested lying on the ground, which is now considered to be VERY dangerous. What is also interesting is that the fire service in London don't give advice on lightning on their website...A girl was struck last year while chatting on her mobile phone and yet children don't realise they are holding a conductor to their ears....She survived but is still having to use a wheelchair. In the US, I have read that lightning strike is the number two killer after flooding each year...with more deaths than hurricanes or tornadoes (in an average year). Before 1994 in the United States, lightning strikes from 1959-1994 killed 3239 people. And, between 1995 and 2004, another 489 people lost their lives. The reduction in numbers was likely due to increased education about lightning safety. Do you have any other figures on this? In China in 2007, 499 Chinese had been killed up to July 2007 (the year before the 12 month total was 717) source: And in 1998 an entire African football team was killed as lightning struck on side of the pitch but not the other:

On the 18th September 2004 a nationally televised college football game had to be suspended for 88 minutes because of lightning. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of America have published guidelines in 1997 which led to a 30-30 rule to be developed by them and the American Meterological Society in 1998.

The first 30 refers to the number of seconds between seeing a flash of lightning and hearing the thunder, the so-called "flash-to-bang" method of distance-ranging, that provides a measure of when the lightning is close enough to be viewed as dangerous. A 30-second count corresponds to a distance of about 6 miles/9.6 km which has previously been shown to include about 80% of the subsequent flashes in a thunderstorm (Lopez and Holle 1999; Murphy and Holle2005). This distance is a conservative but not absolutely safe distance, particularly considering the time required to evacuate a large football stadium when storms are approaching. The second 30 in the 30-30 rule refers to the time that people should wait before resuming outdoor activity after the last lightning is seen or thunder is heard, and the 30-minute count is re-started if any subsequent discharge occurs in the area (Murphy and Holle 2005). I will attach this guideline to this discussion (see below). The graphic to the right is from website which also shows how to do the lightning crouch. However, this is NOT easy to do. I have carried it out with over 240 students from my school and they REMEMBER how to do it! Again I think that this is useful to practice and drill for. But my over-riding concern is that many teachers in charge of students or in loco parentis do not know what to do and that there assumed or previously taught knowledge is out of date. I will follow this up with the Institute of Education in London where I undertook my post-graduate teaching training to see if something can be done about this.
In the meantime I would appreciate it if anyone knows what advice is given elsewhere or whether school districts have any policy or guidelines on this. If so, upload them onto this discussion. Thanks!


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Justin, I was trying to take the quiz... but it was not there. Where is the quiz so we can take it?
The quiz should be about a third of the way down the page on the left. However if you are having problems with flash or it is not enabled then I have now provided a link to a non-flash version of the quiz! I hope this helps! Let me know what score you got!

Thanks Justin.

I got 9 out of 10. This is wonderful. I only had the last question wrong.

Morning Justin

FInally got the time to see all the videos. They are really interesting and instructive. Will see what we can add to them.

I am still in UK on my holidays and will call you one of these days.

Thanks for all your endevoures on DRR.

Excellent! It would be good to see you! I have translated my edu4hazards site into Spanish and am now working in Chinese. Have also finished the scripts for earthquake safety for Tashkent DRR team and am hoping that when these get recorded in Uzbek and Russian for the radio, they will also post on this website! Hope you are having a good time as the weather is really miserable!
Hello Justin

This is a wonderful endeavour indeed. I think it's a good idea to have this translated in as many as languages as possible. I would personally like to help with the Persian (Farsi) version if there is not a tight deadline in submission.

Any other volunteers?

I did post this to ENDRR as well.


No tight deadline. When I have the text it still takes about 12-15 hours to change all of the files and give then the correct naming conventions. I'm going to add the text from the graphics files to is thread and you could start from there? Thanks for the offer of help though...the more people help the more widespread such a project could be. I have already added links to the Chinese pages from the Chinese language version of wikipedia...trying to spread the word! Hope you are well. Are you still in the UK?
To what extent have you explored adapting the advice for the needs of people with disabilities?

I am most particularly thinking of people with mobility impairments. What if you are in a wheelchair? Is it safe to remain in the chair, or is it better to transfer to the ground in cases where this is feasible, even if the person cannot maintain the crouch as you describe it? What if you are on crutches? Do metal crutches increase your risk? If so, how can this be addressed? (Bearing in mind that simply dropping the crutches may not be an option, and crouching on the ground might not be either)

What of people who do not use a wheelchair but who have other types of mobility impairments that might interfere with the ability to crouch as you describe? For example, there are various types of cerebral palsy that are relatively common; in developing nations, there are still plenty of young people who have been left partly paralyzed from polio; then there are people with various pain conditions (eg, back pain) that may make it difficult to bend themselves in any fashion; etc. In these cases, it may be necessary to adapt the crouch. These are questions that would necessarily need to be investigated with extremely close consultation with people who THEMSELVES have a very wide range of mobility impairments.

In terms of education: deaf people would need to be reached in a visual way (in which ALL auditory content is translated into a visual format -- for example, a video with narration should be fully captioned for both all narration/dialogue and also for all sounds). And blind people would need to be reached in audio format (meaning, ALL visual format needs to be translated to an audio format --for example, pictures should be described in a clear, concise fashion that makes sense even to people who have never seen). And deaf-blind people (and some hearing blind people as well) need it in a tactile format, meaning in Braille etc. People with intellectual disabilities need information delivered to them in easy to understand language. (This does not mean that the ideas have to be dumbed down or diluted. People with intellectual disabilities can often understand more complex information than others assume. The difference is that they may need for this information to be broken down into far smaller chunks, and need it to be explained in plain language without a lot of idioms and eupheumisms).

Also: a fully blind person will not see the flash (though they might see it if they have partial vision). And a fully deaf person will not hear the boom (though a great many other deaf people will have enough residual hearing to hear it quite easily ... but in some cases, maybe only if it is relatively close). It cannot be assumed that blind people, or deaf people, will necessarily be accompanied by sighted, hearing people. (We do not need keepers! We simply need *accommodations*.) Alternate means for keeping apprised of the storm and judging the danger need to be identified. A hearing blind person could maybe tune into a local weather radio station. A deaf person does not currently have this option (they're working on technology to make captioned radio, but this is still in the infancy stage, and will surely reach developed countries many years before it infiltrates to developing countries)
Hello Andrea and welcome to the site. You raise some interesting points. Some of which I will be able to address and some of which I do not have the information about, but can at least put you in ouch with someone that does. Firstly the lightning crouch is really a 'last resort' when a person finds themselves not able to reach a car or house. In terms of many open access trails in the countryside in the UK, many are within easy access of parking and transport which is also generally how people got their in the first place. My advice would be if you hear a storm getting very near, try and get to a car or large building (not a cave or rain shelter as these are not safe). The idea of the crouch has not been developed with disability in mind and I agree that it will need to be rethought. The 'drop cover and hold-on' advice given for earthquake safety also needs to be rethought as this has also not been thought out for people with disabilities. I have to say that the only realistic way of addressing both of these issues is to talk directly with these people as they are the only ones that may be able to adapt to their situation in a way that an able bodied person may not have thought about. It is therefore important that this type of advice is discussed and taught to people of all ages regardless of any disability and you are right to bring it up in this forum. I know that June Isaacson Kailes has done a lot of research into people with disabilities and disaster prevention and she may have some useful information on her website at: I hope this at least addresses some of your concerns.
The 30-30 rule is very appropriate, especially when linked to the practice of knowing the weather threats for the day. In the USA, the Hazardous Weather Outlook from the National Weather Service is worth a look each day.

Having a safety officer monitor weather would be important for out-door events, ex. football games, marching band practice.

Of course, the school should have a business continuity plan as well as an emergency operations plan. How different would the EBAY auction have been had NOLA schools used their school busses to evacuate NOLA? Those types of issues can be overcome through the planning process.

Participation in the Local Emergency Planning Committee would be important for schools. This committee meets regularly to develop Emergency Operations Plans.

Contact your local emergency manager for more details.
Hi Justin,

I find your post on lightning safety very useful. The NCAA guidelines are especially informative.

I'm very interested to know of any person who survived a ligthning strike because of his/her execution of the lightning crouch. If there's any, it will be very interesting to mention lightning survivors during lectures with teachers and pupils. I've been trying to teach this and remembered a teacher asking me if the lighting crouch really works. (We also refer to the lightning crouch as "squat with v-heels". )

Many thanks,


The Lightning Crouch

Interesting question. A quick search on the internet doesn't help either. The advice is supported by NOAA and other safety professionals, but I would really like to see this tested, using a dummy and sensors to examine, where the lightning goes and how it affects when using or not using the lightning crouch. It is important to not however that it is a LAST RESORT and any education should emphasise this. If a tingling sensation is felt and a person is outside, then IMMEDIATELY drop and do the lightning crouch! It should also be practiced as it is quite hard to do over a long period of time! But I would also carry out Q&A about distance, in order to use the 30/30 rule. Any less than 30 seconds counting from flash to bang means that you should seek shelter in a building, car etc immediately. After the last clap of thunder wait 30 minutes before resuming any activities!
I am attaching a link to an interesting article on lightning safety for schools!




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