Thunder and Lightning Disturbance Guidelines:
The National Federation of High School Associations - also known as “FED” or “NFHS” – has studied the research of weather and safety experts in recent years and has adapted past guidelines for handling contests during lightning disturbances to reflect the updated research. The current FED guidelines reflect the best information that current science has to offer and, as such, sets what lawyers and judges would regard as the basic legal standards that would be used in a court trial regarding wrongful death or injury resulting from umpire/coach negligence in handling the threat of lightning strikes. BOTTOM LINE: FOLLOW THE CURRENT FEDERATION RULES IN ANY GAME YOU DO – LEGION, SYSA, MEN’S LEAGUE, PONY, BABE RUTH, ETC. Do not let coaches, tournament directors, fans – anyone – bully you into doing less than what amounts to the legal standard. Especially, do not let them bully you into shortening the appropriate waiting period. What are the rules in handling lightning disturbances? They are in your Federation rule book, but here’s a recap: 1. When thunder is heard, or a cloud-to-ground lighting bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. SUSPEND play and take shelter immediately.2. Thirty-minute rule. Once play has been suspended, wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard or flash of lighting is witnessed prior to resuming play.3. Any subsequent thunder being heard or lightning seen after the beginning of the 30-minute count, reset the clock and another 30-minute count should begin. For games assigned by IEBUA, all WOA members have liability insurance, but the insurance carrier expects you to follow the safety rules, so comply with the FED lightning protocol. To state again: If lightning can be seen, or thunder heard, the game will be suspended for 30 minutes. Should additional lightning or thunder occur, a new minute "clock" starts over. Umpires should not remain on the field – doing so does not set the appropriate safety example -- but should go to a safe place, normally their vehicles, and monitor the weather from there. If you have a smart phone, you might be able to monitor weather reports. You may call me, and, if I’m able to do so, I’ll check the weather radar from my computer or TV to see if I can give you some information on what the storm is doing. While coaches are responsible for their players, please be aware of the following safety information and urge coaches to adhere to the following guidelines if you see differing behavior. Players are not supposed to remain in the dugouts. Open-sided structures, especially those attached to or underneath metal fences are extremely unsafe if hit by lightning. Many are directly attached to the backstop, the highest metal pointed object around. Absent an enclosed structure, players and coaches should go to their vehicles. A word about fans. You are not responsible for fan safety during a game stoppage for lightning threat. However, if you should have stopped the game for a lightning threat and didn’t, and a fan or fans are killed or injured in a lightning strike, who do you think is going to get sued? The lawyer for the plaintiff will allege that the fan was only remaining out there because the umpiring crew did not stop the game and therefore the fan(s) relied on the crew’s superior training and judgment.