When Thunder Rumbles, Clear the Pool

Swimmers are inviting targets for lightning

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SUNDAY, Aug. 10, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Lightning storms are as much a part of summer as swimming. But the two can be a deadly combination.

Nearly 100 Americans die from lightning strikes each year, and a high percentage of these deaths occur in summer when people are swimming and participating in other water sports.

USA Swimming, the official organization of the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, says there are some important safety rules to follow when you decide to take a dip in a pool.

First and foremost, you need an evacuation plan. To determine the distance between you and a lightning strike, use the "flash-to-bang" rule: every five seconds you count between seeing the lightning flash and hearing the thunder indicates there's one mile between you and that lightning strike. If your evacuation building is nearby and nothing obstructs your view at the pool, a 30-second flash-to-bang time should be your minimum evacuation time.

Pools that have obstructed views should evacuate as soon as thunder is heard. And pools in noisy areas should use an information source such as the Weather Channel, lightning sensors or other means of monitoring the weather.

Some other rules to remember:

  • There should be a well-grounded, enclosed shelter near the pool in case of a quick evacuation.
  • Know the weather forecast and have a safety plan ready to enact. If thunderstorms are forecast, watch for storm development and be prepared to carry out your plan.
  • Notify people the pool is closed and that showers and sinks are off limits until the storm passes.
  • Wait 30 minutes from the last time thunder is heard before reopening the pool.

More information

To learn more about keeping safe from lightning, visit the National Lightning Safety Institute.

SOURCE: USA Swimming

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