When lightning threatens an outdoor activity, it is usually postponed so that people may seek a safe location. When lightning threatens a large outdoor stadium, the game or event itself is usually postponed, but it is often difficult to ensure the safety of tens of thousands of spectators. Although stadiums may employ a general evacuation plan, complete evacuation is often counterproductive for efficient lightning safety. Outdoor events, which fill stadiums to capacity, are at the highest risk because there is little room for people to move and crowd panic becomes a real possibility. Lightning safety recommendations exist for both players and spectators during outdoor activities, however, most venues do not have a lightning action plan. This study recommends that stadiums and other outdoor venues develop a lightning action plan, which should include continuous education for stadium personnel, players, and spectators about the proper actions to take should lightning threaten a venue. The action plan should also distinguish safe locations within the venue that could provide shelter for players and spectators and delineate responsibility to stadium personnel for crowd management. Further, stadiums should consider the use of additional air terminals and caternaries (lightning rods and shield wires) to protect not just the stadium infrastructure from a lightning strike, but the entire spectator area as well.

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Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, CIRES, and MBA Program, Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, CIRES, Boulder, Colorado