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Lightning/Severe Weather Policy - Athletics

SLT 6.14

  1. Policy Statement
  2. Procedures

Policy Statement

The safety of all participants and observers of athletic events is extremely important. Therefore, the Athletics Department has developed the following policy and chain of command in order to ensure the safety of both athletes and onlookers in the case of severe weather during an athletic event. 


Chain of Command

The athletic trainer(s) present (most practices) in coordination with the game administrator and game officials are responsible for terminating an athletic activity in the event of lightning or other severe weather. During outdoor activities, a primary responsibility of the athletic trainer(s) is to have the ability to make sound decisions on environmental factors effecting the safety and well being of the athletes as well as others involved with the activity.

The certified athletic trainer will communicate with the game administrator, the head coach, and game official(s)/umpire(s) of the potential for lightning or severe weather and will make the recommendation that all activities stop or be suspended.

If the head coach is not present, the senior most member of the coaching staff will assume responsibility.

If an athlete proceeds with their outside activity against the recommendation of the individual in charge to seek a safe shelter, the athlete assumes all personal liability with regard to their safety and health.

If a coach and/or game official(s)/umpires(s) make the decision to continue to practice and/or continue with a game or other activity despite a Telvent weather warning, the cancellation of classes, and/or the verbal instruction by a certified athletic trainer or game administrator, they will be doing so against the recommendations of the Grand Valley State University Athletic Department and will be personally liable for any and all injuries.

Severe Weather

In the event of severe weather, the following measures will be taken by Grand Valley:

The athletic training staff will check the weather daily prior to the practice or competition. Up-to-date weather reports will be obtained by using Telvent services.

During outdoor practices and games, an early warning text message system from Telvent may be used to help determine the occurrence of and/or distance of lightning in the area. The weather reports and systems will be monitored for storms that may develop during practices and games.

When an early warning text message system from Telvent has detected lightning or thunder has been heard, the athletic trainer in charge will monitor the distance on the early warning system. When the lightning is within an 8-mile radius of the venue, the activity will be ceased and a warning message with recommended safe structure will be given. 

Anytime the Meadows sirens are used to close the golf course, all athletic outdoor activities will be suspended.

The certified athletic trainer will be responsible for notifying the head coach, official(s)/umpire(s) and game administrator (if present) of the lightning or severe weather. The certified athletic trainer will recommend play to be suspended at this time and shelter should be taken.

Any person who feels they are in danger of any lightning activity will have the right to leave the field or event site to seek safe shelter without fear of penalty or repercussion.

If play is suspended due to severe weather, everyone (including observers) should seek shelter in the designated “safe structures” (listed in Table A). A “safe structure” is defined as “any building normally occupied or frequently used by people, i.e. a building with plumbing and/or electrical wiring that acts to electrically ground the structure.” This structure does not include: shower facilities, baseball/softball dugouts, outside storage sheds, and canopies/awnings/tents. When in a “safe structure,” stay away from corded telephones, electrical appliances, lighting fixtures, ham radio microphones, electric sockets, and plumbing.

In the absence of a “sturdy, frequently inhabited building,” one may seek shelter in fully enclosed hardtop vehicles but should not touch the sides of the vehicle.

If no “safe structure” is available within reasonable distance, find a thick grove of small trees surrounded by taller trees or a dry ditch and assume a lightning safe position. A lightning safe position is one in which one is crouched on the ground with only the balls of the feet touching the ground, with their arms wrapped around the knees and head lowered. Do not lie flat on the ground. Stay away from the tallest trees or objects (i.e. light poles or flag poles), metal objects (i.e. fences or bleachers), individual trees, standing pools of water, and open fields. Avoid being the highest object in a field.

Any person who feels his/her hairs stands on end or skin tingle should immediately assume a lightning safe position.

Avoid using a landline telephone. Cellular phones may be used in an emergency situation.

Resumption of Activity
Play will resume thirty minutes following the last flash of lightning per the Telvent warning system. The certified athletic trainer will make this recommendation to the official(s) during an official game.

Blue skies and absence of rain are not protection from lightning. Lightning can strike up to ten miles from the rain shaft and it does not have to be raining for lightning to strike.

Care of a Lightning-Strike Victim
A lightning strike does not stay attached to the source therefore they do not carry an electrical charge. It is safe to touch the victim to move him/her to a safe location and to render medical treatment. Medical personnel should consider their own personal safety before venturing into a dangerous situation to render care.

Lightning-strike victims who show signs of cardiac or respiratory arrest need emergency help quickly. CPR and AED use should begin immediately, if necessary. Prompt, aggressive CPR has been highly effective for the survival of victims of lightning strikes.

Victims should be assessed and treated for apnea, asystole, hypothermia, shock, fractures and burns. 

Refer to the Safe Structures table.


NCAA Guideline 1D: Lightning Safety. NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook (2004).

Walsh, K.M.; et al. (2000). National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Lightning Safety for Athletics and Recreation. Journal of Athletic Training; 35(4): 471-7.