The Virginia Independent School Athletic Association (VISAA) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) advises when thunder is heard or lightning is seen*, the leading edge of the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. Suspend play for at least 30 minutes and immediately vacate the outdoor activity to the previously designated safer location. These guidelines provide a default policy to those responsible or sharing duties for making decisions concerning the suspension and restarting of practices and contests based on the presence of lightning or thunder based on the most recent guidelines provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) on February 14, 2021. The full guideline can be found here.
Assign staff to monitor local weather conditions before and during practices and contests.
Develop an evacuation plan, including identification of appropriate nearby safer areas, and determine the amount of time needed to get everyone to a designated safer area:
A designated safer place is a substantial building with plumbing and wiring where people live or work, such as a school, gymnasium or library. An alternate safer place from the threat of lightning is a fully enclosed (not convertible or soft top) metal car or school bus.
Develop criteria for suspension and resumption of play:
When thunder is heard or lightning is seen*, the leading edge of the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. Suspend play for at least 30 minutes and vacate the outdoor activity to the previously designated safer location immediately.
30-minute rule. Once play has been suspended, wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard or lightning is witnessed* prior to resuming play.
Any subsequent thunder or lightning* after the beginning of the 30-minute count will reset the clock and another 30-minute count should begin. d. When independently validated lightning-detection devices or mobile phone apps are available, this technology could be used to assist in making a decision to suspend play if a lightning strike is noted to be within 10 miles of the event location. However, you should never depend on the reliability of these devices and, thus, hearing thunder or seeing lightning* should always take precedence over information from a mobile app or lightning-detection device.
?? * – At night, under certain atmospheric conditions, lightning flashes may be seen from distant storms. In these cases, it may be safe to continue an event. If no thunder can be heard and the flashes are low on the horizon, the storm may not pose a threat. Independently verified lightning detection information would help eliminate any uncertainty.
Review the lightning safety policy annually with all administrators, coaches, and game personnel and train all personnel.
Inform student-athletes and their parents of the lightning policy at start of the season.
For additional information on lightning safety, see the links below: