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When Thunder Roars Go Indoors
 Lightning Safety Awareness Toolkit

When Thunder Roars Go Indoors” county campaign establishes a voluntary program for local counties to create an awareness of the dangers of lightning at their outdoor recreational venues and provide the community with safety measures to protect themselves from the dangers of lightning. This toolkit is part of a voluntary program to help counties increase awareness of lightning danger at outdoor recreational venues. 

Background and Statistics

“When Thunder Roars Go Indoors” is an effort to save lives by taking a new approach to educate the public about lightning dangers.  Fear already exists for lightning, but thunder needs to be seen as the early warning for lightning.  This campaign encourages the public to take action when they hear thunder rather than waiting for lighting or rain. This campaign is inexpensive for local counties, can be developed and implemented quickly and easily with available resources and supports public health and safety initiatives.

Project Plan Outline for County

The outline below details the steps used to implement the campaign. 

  • When thunder roars go indoors sign at playgroundAssess groups within the county that have outside recreation or large event venues.  Invite the groups to partner with the county on this effort.  Some groups to consider include:
    • PreK-12 Schools
    • Recreation and Parks
    • Community Colleges
    • Pools
    • Concert Facilities
    • Sports Clubs
    • Public/Private Golf Courses
    • Dog Parks
  • Ensure all groups taking part have written thunder/lightning policies consistent with the NWS and “When Thunder Roars Go Indoors” message.  Also, ensure all groups who commit to the program agree to install signs and educate their staff and volunteers about the NWS thunder and lightning policies.
  • Decide where to put the signs.  Estimate number needed.
  • Assess sign pollution. Suggest putting signs on paths leading up to facilities or at entrances to facilities.
  • Talk to local Public Works department about sign creation and printing.
  • Schedule Media Event (if interested)
  • Invite local TV/radio, weather forecasters, and newspapers to the event to promote the campaign during their on air weather forecasts.  Ensure both written and verbal invitations are provided.  Follow up to ensure attendance.
  • Invite local NWS weather forecasters to represent the agency and speak about lightning safety.  Your local Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) and Meteorologist in Charge (MIC) from the local forecast office are good resources.  To find your local office, go to and click on your state.
  • Encourage all the partners to participate in the event. 
  • Invite residents and community groups to participate in the event.
  • Installation of Signs
    • Monitor the installation of signs.
    • Ensure partners are installing signs as agreed.

Suggested Talking Points for County Executive/Officials

  • The campaign is an effort to save lives by taking a new approach to an old problem.
  • In theory, everyone knows to take shelter when they see lighting, however, the problem is that by the time you SEE lightning, it could be too late.  Many deaths and injuries occur while people are seeking shelter from the storm.
  • Since thunder is usually heard before seeing lightning, we encourage people to use thunder as the early warning detection for lightning.  “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors”.
  • The National Weather Service adopted the motto “When Thunder Roars Go Indoors” to encourage people to take the proper action when lightning threatens.  The NWS seeks local partners to help spread the message within their communities and help keep their citizens safe from the dangers of lightning.
  • The program requires us to educate many individuals of all ages who engage in all sorts of outdoor activities such as youth sports, golf, hiking, swimming, biking, picnicking, recreational sports, etc, that if they can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike and they need to immediately stop activities and seek, as inconvenient as that may be. (site examples of lightning deaths with people seeking shelter – too late)
  • Each year an average of 58 Americans are killed by lightning.  Hundreds of others are injured.  It is important to note that the reported number of injuries is likely far lower than the actual total number because many people do not seek help or doctors do not record it has a lightning injury.  People struck by lightning suffer from a variety of long term, debilitating symptoms.
  • The campaign requires a small amount of resources to help educate the public, keep your community safe, and save lives.

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