An Analysis of Lightning Safety Policies and Procedures in Florida’s Municipal Recreation and Park Agencies


  • John O. Spengler
  • Daniel P. Connaughton
  • James J. Zhang
  • Heather Gibson


Lightning, safety, risk, recreation, sport, parks, management, perception, policy.


Municipal recreation and park agencies often provide opportunities for organized outdoor recreational sports. Recreational sport activities such as youth soccer or adult softball often occur during times when there is the greatest risk of lightning; typically considered the most dangerous weather hazard encountered by people in the United States. Lightning is of particular concern in the state of Florida given the high probability of lightning strikes and the fact that Florida leads the nation in both lightning-related deaths and injuries. Concern over the safety risks associated with lightning has led to the formulation of lightning safety recommendations by several national organizations. The organizations identified in this study that have developed lightning safety recommendations are (1) the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), (2) the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and (3) the National Federation of State High Schools Association (NFSHSA). This study examined Florida’s municipal recreation and park agencies’ lightning safety policies and procedures in light of these recommendations. Municipal recreation and park agencies in Florida (N=125) participated in this study with a response rate of 70%. Of the agencies surveyed, the majority (94.3%) were located in rural communities or small towns. The public recreation and park agencies typically offered a combination of both field and court sport activities with a combination of full-time, part-time, and/or volunteer staff members responsible for the activity programs. The results indicate that the majority of directors perceived a moderate to very high probability of lightning striking their outdoor facilities and a moderate to very high safety risk. However, over half of the agencies (57.4%) had neither a lightning safety policy nor a written lightning safety plan. Results further indicated that 45.6% of directors responding provided formal training in lightning safety for their staff, 30.6% provided lightning safety information to participants, and 75% indicated they monitored for lightning. Monitoring approaches included watching the sky (59.3%), television weather reports (41.5%), radio weather reports (33.3%), Internet weather reports (32.5%), use of lightning detection devices (30.1%), telephoning the weather service (8.9%), and other methods (2.4%). Finally, 42% of the directors surveyed reported they had designated shelters for the purpose of seeking safety from lightning. The results of this study suggest the need for lightning safety education that addresses the risks associated with lightning and that encourages the formulation and implementation of lightning safety policies and procedures that follow the NATA, AMS, and NFSHSA recommendations.





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