On March 19th, 2016, tragedy struck a music festival in Larose, Louisiana. For the past several years, many people have descended on the family farm of Mike Malgout (Alligator Mike) to listen to various musicians while enjoying Louisiana style food and entertainment at the T-Bois Blues Festival.
A number of those that attend the three day event opt to camp out in tents, and this year was no different. Sadly, lightning struck the event, killing one of the attendees and a pet Labrador dog, while seriously wounding two others.
According to The New Orleans Advocate, Jacqui Stavis who resided in New Orleans was pronounced dead the day after her tent was struck by lightning. The two women who were also struck and injured had apparently sought shelter from the storms that were occurring in Ms Stavis’ tent.
This tragic event is a good reminder that tents and many other enclosed areas should not be considered “shelter” from thunderstorms. While a tent may keep you dry, they offer no protection against lightning.
It’s also a good reminder that those who organize outdoor events of any kind need to think about the safety of participants and attendees and plan for the possibility of inclement weather including lightning. Shelter from possible lightning strikes should be provided and if they cannot be for whatever reason, weather conditions need to be monitored with advance warning provided that suitable shelter needs to be found.
What Is Suitable Shelter From Lightning?
As the news story above illustrates, tents are not suitable shelter from thunder and lightning storms. In addition, many of the structures that some people believe will provide shelter are not a safe place to be during a lightning storm.
A motor vehicle can be a safe shelter as long as all the windows are closed and no one inside the vehicle is touching objects that are connected to the outside. This includes radios, antennas, and metal door handles.
Generally, well constructed metal buildings are also safe shelters from thunderstorms. Permanently constructed buildings made of wood, brick or stone are also considered safe, but those inside still need to be cautious about avoiding contact with anything electrically powered or that could conduct electricity from outside.
Picnic shelters which are often provided at outdoor events are NOT a safe place to shelter in during a thunderstorm.
Lightning Detectors Give Time To Seek Safe Shelter
Those who are responsible for the organization of outdoor events including festivals can help protect lives. A working lightning detector can provide advanced warning and give organizers some time to direct attendees to shelter that is safe from lighting.
For events that are unable to provide safe shelter to large crowds, the advanced warning along with direction from organizers can help those in attendance by giving them time to find suitable sheltered protection on their own.
SkyScan USA has several models of lightning detectors that can help you keep your event safe. Depending on the location, a permanently installed lightning detector may be the best solution while a portable detector could be a suitable option.
No matter what your event is for, if it’s held outdoors where there is risk of lightning, a Lightning Safety Plan should be prepared and followed and should incorporate safety procedures when advanced warning like a lightning detector can provide, is received.