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Severe Weather Standard Operating Procedure

Sean's Run Weekend

Procedures when lightning is present

Purpose of Procedure
An electrical/severe storm approaching or within the immediate area prior to start time of any activity of Sean’s Run Weekend will be considered potentially life threatening to participants and volunteers and may result in cancellation or delay of an activity (Bike Ride, Run or Walk, Battle of Belts).  This procedure outlines the Organizing Committee’s preparation and response to an electrical/severe storm.

When to implement the procedure
A determination to implement this procedure - to delay or cancel - will be made should an obvious storm be approaching, a NWS warning/watch be issued, thunder or lightning is noted, or lightning is reported within 20 miles of the run/walk course or the route of the bicyclists. The decision to delay or cancel will be made by the General Chairman and the Coordinator of Safety in coordination with local law enforcement authorities and EMS.

Deciding to Delay or to Cancel
The Road Runners Club of America provides group liability insurance for event members including Sean’s Run. Its guidance specifically states that when lightning is present, “Runners should be sent home if there is not adequate safe shelter for everyone to wait out the storm.  Remember that trees are not safe shelter and lightning can strike up to 10 miles away.”

Sean’s Run activities could be delayed given the availability of adequate shelter at the Chatham fairgrounds or Chatham High School.

Any cancelation will be called before a storm arrives, giving people on location sufficient time to go to their cars or buses.

Preliminary steps to be taken considering a potential cancelation
The website includes a page to provide specific information about the dangers of lightning/severe weather and include a copy of this Procedure.  This webpage indicates that participants should use the Sean’s Run webpage and Facebook page in days leading up to and during Sean’s Run Weekend to learn about the potential for cancelation as well as a decision to cancel the event.

The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page at the website will include the following specific Questions: What is the cancelation policy? Will we get our registration fee back or a discount for next year if the event is canceled because of weather?  Is there a rain date in case of cancelation?

In case of a forecast of an approaching storm on Saturday or Sunday when people have arrived on location, an outside PA will be used early and frequently to provide information about what to do if the event is delayed or canceled.

Everyone will be encouraged to follow updates at the Sean’s Run webpage and Facebook page and to go to shelter for a delay or to leave the area and go home if an announcement is made that the event is canceled.

Announcing the Cancelation Early
Making the call to delay or cancel as early as possible will avoid having people on the course or running to their cars during lightning. We will also avoid having law enforcement, first responders and volunteers exposed to the adverse weather while people are still on the course. 

Lightning Safety
Excerpts from article Written by: Latrice Sales, MS, CSCS, NCAA Sport Science Institute


Education and prevention are the keys to lightning safety. This article will provide several prevention strategies and educational resources to help NCAA-member institutions prepare to respond to a lightning hazard. Prevention should begin long before any athletically related activity, event or practice by having an institutional lightning safety plan in place. The following steps are recommended by the NCAA and NOAA to mitigate risk of a lightning hazard:

  • Develop a lightning safety plan for each outdoor venue.
  • Designate a person to monitor threatening weather and to notify the chain of command who can make the decision to remove a team, game personnel, television crews and spectators from an athletics site or event.
  • Monitor local weather reports daily.
  • Be informed of National Weather Service (NWS) issued thunderstorm watches or warnings and know the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and a severe thunderstorm warning.
  • Lightning awareness should be heightened at the first flash of lightning, clap of thunder, and/or other signs of an impending storm, such as increasing winds or darkening skies, no matter how far away. These types of activities should be treated as a warning or wake-up call to athletics personnel. Lightning safety experts suggest that if you hear thunder, begin preparation for evacuation. If you see lightning, consider suspending activities.  For large-scale events, continuous monitoring of the weather should occur from the time pre-event activities occur and throughout the event.

Specific lightning safety guidelines

  • As a minimum, lightning safety experts strongly recommend that by the time the weather monitor observes 30 seconds between seeing the lightning flash and hearing its associated thunder or by the time the leading edge of the storm is within six miles of the venue, all individuals should have left the athletics site. Use the Flash to Bang method to estimate the distance between your location and the lighting flash (See Table 1).
  • Thunder may be hard to hear if there is an athletics event going on, particularly in stadiums with large crowds.
  • Ensure a safe and orderly evacuation from the venue with announcements.

  • Lightning can strike from blue sky and in the absence of rain. At least ten percent of lightning occurs when there is no rainfall and when blue sky is visible; this is especially prevalent with summer thunderstorms. Lightning can, and does, strike as far as ten (or more) miles away from the rain shaft. If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose an immediate threat. Be aware of local weather patterns and review local weather forecasts before an outdoor practice or event.
  •  Avoid using landline telephones, except in emergency situations. People have been killed while using a landline telephone during a thunderstorm. Cellular or cordless phones are safe alternatives to a landline phone.

  • To resume athletics activities, lightning safety experts recommend waiting 30 minutes after both the last sound of thunder and after the last flash of lightning is at least six miles away, and moving away from the venue. If lightning is seen without hearing thunder, lightning may be out of range and therefore less likely to be a significant threat. This greater distance may mean that the lightning is no longer a significant threat.

  • People who have been struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge. Therefore, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is safe for the first responder. If possible, an injured person should be moved to a safer location before starting CPR. Lightning strike victims who show signs of cardiac or respiratory arrest need prompt emergency care. Call 911 immediately. Prompt, aggressive CPR has been highly effective for the survival of victims of lightning strikes.

  • Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) are a safe and effective means of reviving people in cardiac arrest. However, do not delay CPR while searching for an AED.

Table 1. Flash to Bang Method
To estimate the distance between your location and a lightning flash, use the "Flash to Bang" method: If you observe lightning, count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five to obtain the distance in miles. Example: If you see lightning and it takes 10 seconds before you hear the thunder, then the lightning is 2 miles away.

If Thunder is heard

The Lightning is...

5 seconds after a Flash

1 mile away

10 seconds after a Flash

2 miles away

15 seconds after a Flash

3 miles away

20 seconds after a Flash

4 miles away

25 seconds after a Flash

5 miles away

30 seconds after a Flash

6 miles away

35 seconds after a Flash

7 miles away

40 seconds after a Flash

8 miles away

Because lightning can strike up to 10 miles from a storm, you should seek safe shelter as soon as you hear thunder or see lightning. Get to a safe location if the time between the lightning flash and the rumble of thunder is 30 seconds or less.

Many athletically-related activities occur outdoors and these activities may rely on coaches, officials, athletic trainers and athletics administrators to make safety decisions. Therefore, it is essential for everyone involved in intercollegiate athletics to understand the dangers of lightning, have a lightning safety plan in place, and follow the plan once thunder is heard or lightning is seen.  Weather watchers, real-time weather forecasts and commercial weather-warning devices or services are all tools that can be used to aid in the monitoring and notification of threatening weather situations, decision-making regarding stoppage of play, evacuation and return to play.





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