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Lightning Safety Program
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Talking Points
Lightning Safety Awareness Week


Why is NOAA and the PGA TOUR conducting a lightning safety campaign?

Lightning is an underrated killer -- it can strike even 10 miles from a storm. NOAA wants the American public to know that -- and to know what to do about it. And we can all learn something from the pros. The PGA Tour, for example, postpones play whenever lightning is in the area. This protects both players and fans.

How great a threat is lightning in the U.S.?

Each year, in the United States, there are 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.

Anyone who is outside right before a thunderstorm develops, or even just after it's over, can be a target.

The statistics are tragic. Over the past 30 years, lightning has killed an average of 73 people each year. That's more than the annual number of fatalities caused by tornadoes or hurricanes. Just last year, lightning killed 51 people. NOAA's National Weather Service issues forecasts for thunderstorms days in advance. But public attention, to both these forecasts and what to do about them, are key.

What is your message to America?

Our message is clear: When a thunderstorm threatens, go indoors immediately.Take a lesson from the PGA -- and postpone any outdoor event. Your life, and the lives of those you love, may depend on it.

Talking Points

We are kicking off our first-ever Nationwide and are unveiling some exciting new public service messages.

NOAA's National Weather Service has a huge stake in lightning safety across America.

Let me first introduce our partners in lightning safety. We have with us today, Ana Laird with the PGA TOUR. We probably would not be having today's event if it weren't for the PGA TOUR staff and their commitment to public safety.

We have an internationally renowned expert on lightning injuries, Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, and Mr. Michael Utley, a lightning strike survivor, who is kind enough to share his experience and reinforce the safety message.

And, finally, I am proud to introduce a fellow golfer, although we are not quite in the same league, the PGA TOUR'S Rocco Mediate, who is our star in the public service material we will be unveiling shortly.

Lightning strikes the earth some 25 million times each year. During the past 30 years in the United States, lightning killed an average of 73 people per year. This is more than the average of 68 deaths per year caused by tornadoes and the average of 16 deaths per year caused by hurricanes.

The vast majority of lightning casualties can be prevented through public education. This is why we have teamed up with the PGA TOUR and professional golfer Rocco Mediate to focus public attention on lightning safety.

All thunderstorms can produce lightning, so it's up to all of us to heed the warnings. NOAA's National Weather Service issues forecasts for thunderstorms days in advance, and severe weather warnings for specific locations. The PGA TOUR takes that a step further with an on-site meteorologist from The Weather Channel who pinpoints weather conditions directly over tournaments--saving lives.

Lightning is indeed an underrated killer. Because it usually claims only one or two victims at a time, and because it does not cause the mass destruction we see in the wake of tornadoes or hurricanes, lightning generally receives less attention than the more destructive weather-related killers.

But let's not overlook lightning's tragic statistics. 70-plus deaths a year is far too many - and many lightning casualties occur on the golf course and other outdoor sports activities. That's why we are here at the spectacular Westchester Country Club during the Buick Classic with the PGA TOUR and Rocco Mediate-we want as many golfers- all AmericansBto hear our potentially life-saving safety message.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and we have even better than that. So let's roll the video tape and show off our Lightning Awareness video starring Rocco Mediate...

And now, the poster...



The PGA TOUR and their outstanding communications staff helped make this possible today. Before I turn it over to Ana Leaird, Director of public relations for the PGA TOUR, I want to take a moment to congratulate the TOUR on their ongoing partnership with The Weather Channel, which provides lightning safety measures at each PGA TOUR event. The TOUR is a great example of a sports organization that strives to ensure the safety of its fans and athletes- Ana...


What more can I say about Rocco Mediate? He has taken time out from his busy schedule, not only to film the public service announcement, but to be here, during an important tournament, to get a life-saving message across to the public. On behalf of NOAA and the National Weather Service, and the nation's golfers and other outdoor enthusiasts, I thank you. Rocco Mediate...


Now for a person who has devoted her career toward assisting lightning victims and better understanding this tragic phenomena, Dr. Mary Ann Cooper...


We also have with us a man who experienced the devastation of a lightning strike, and lived to tell the tale. The more people who hear Michael Utley's story, the more they will be aware of the lightning danger and the safer they will be. Michael...


Today we have painted a vivid portrait of a dangerous natural phenomenon and we have produced the tools and the experts to get our message across to America. We will be distributing Rocco's PSA nationwide, along with the posters, and our specialists in NOAA public affairs, along with the staff at the PGA TOUR will make sure the media gets our message so they can relay it to the people. Lightning Awareness Week is from June 20-26, 2010. Thank you everybody for being here. Are there any questions?

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