Lightning Safety

South African Orienteering Federation (SAOF)

Lightning Safety Policy


  1. To protect organisers, volunteers, participants and spectators from storm conditions, especially lightning strikes, and to give sufficient warning for them to be able to take shelter. 


  1. SAOF has a lightning detection device, which will be operational during all Orienteering Schools League (OSL) events. This device warns of lightning activity from as far away as 60 kilometres, sounding warnings as storms approach.
  2. Weather conditions will be monitored online through the South African Weather Service website on the day of each event.


  1. Should the device alert us to too close lightning activity (<10km away), the event will immediately be halted. Participants out on the course will be diverted to safety and those waiting at the start and finish areas will be directed to shelter in the nearest buildings.
  2. Should conditions clear and the lightning detection device indicate that the area is again safe, the event will resume.
  3. Should storms and unsafe conditions continue, the event will be stopped and participants directed to their buses to return to their schools.

In general, consider the following outdoor safety tips as published online by Dehn in “When lightning strikes: what to do during a thunderstorm”.

  • To estimate your distance from a thunderstorm, count the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder. Divide this number by 3 to get the number of kilometres.
  • With this in mind… thunder more than 30 seconds after a lightning flash means the storm is far enough away for your to be safe. Thunder 15 seconds after a lightning flash means it is only about 5km away. You are at high risk if you hear thunder less than 5 seconds after a lightning flash.
  • If caught outdoors, avoid being the highest point around and protect yourself (see below) should lightning strike nearby.
  • When lightning strikes nearby, current is conducted to the ground and quickly spreads out in all directions, forming a dangerous potential gradient. For this reason, never lie flat on the ground.
    • Crouch down immediately, put your feet as close together as possible and wrap your arms around your legs.
    • Put down bicycles, golf bags or golf clubs and keep a distance of three metres (3m) from these objects.
    • Hollows, beds of stone pits or protruding rocks may provide shelter.
    • If you are in a group of people, spread out.
    • It is vital to keep a distance of three metres (3m) away from walls, metal fences, etc.
  • Avoid trees, edges of the forest and the wooden poles of overhead lines since they are particularly vulnerable to lightning. The risk of being hit by a lightning strike inside a forest with trees of uniform height is considerably lower, however, keep a 10m distance from tall, significant trees.
  • On school fields, move away from stands, flagpoles and goal posts during a storm and head for the nearest building.


Updated 23 January 2014

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