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IHSA Severe Weather Safety Guidelines

To be used during any IHSA state series contest
Adopted June 11, 2007; Revised July 30, 2018

When thunder is heard, or a cloud–to-ground lightning bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. Take shelter immediately.

Lightning is one of the most consistent and underrated causes of weather-related deaths or injury in the United States. Nearly all lightning-related injuries occur between the months of May and September and between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Therefore, the greatest concern for injuries in an outdoor contest appears to be during that time, though it can happen any time of year.

It is essential that local managers, competing schools, and contest officials establish dialogue in advance of contests or events to ensure that all involved are aware of what the plan will be in determining whether or when to suspend play. Local managers are encouraged to share their plan with competing schools and assigned contest officials prior to the start of the tournament/event.

If competing schools have portable devices they will be bringing to a contest/event and/or have specific policy or directions from their administration that they must follow, the school must communicate those to the tournament manager. Tournament managers must know the policies of each school assigned to their tournament or event prior to its start.


1) Assign staff to monitor local weather conditions before and during practices and contests
2) 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. 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 lightening is a fully enclosed (not convertible or soft top) metal car or school bus.
3) Develop criteria for suspension and resumption of play:
a. When thunder is heard, or lightning is seen*, the leading edge of the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightening. Suspend play for at least 30 minutes and vacate the outdoor activity to the previously designated safer location immediately.
b. 30 minutes 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.
c. 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 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.
4) Review the lightning safety policy annually with all administrators, coaches and game personnel and train all personnel.
5) Inform student-athletes and their parents of the lightning policy at start of the season.

Evacuation Plan

Safe Areas: All personnel, athletes and spectators should be clearly informed of available safe structures or shelters in the event a thunderstorm approaches. A safe structure is any fully enclosed building frequently used by people. In absence of that – athletes and spectators should go to any vehicle with a hard metal roof. Roll up the windows and do not touch the sides of the vehicle. If no safe structure or vehicle is available, find a thick grove of small trees surrounded by taller trees or a dry ditch. Assume a crouched position on the ground with only the balls of your feet touching the ground. Wrap your arms around your knees and lower your head. Minimize contact to the ground since lightning often travels through the ground.

Avoid: Tall trees or objects like light poles or flagpoles, individual trees, standing pools of water and open fields. Also avoid being the highest object on the field. Do not take shelter under trees. Avoid bathrooms if another building is available, and do not use a land-line telephone. A cellular phone or portable phone is a safe alternative if in a secure shelter or vehicle.

Resuming Activity: The NSSL (National Severe Storms Laboratory) recommends that everyone should wait at least 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning or sound of thunder before returning to the field or activity.