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 ~ National Lightning Safety Institute ~

Section Section 4.7.4

Lightning and Indoor Pools:
A Reply to Aquatics Resources eSplash Newsletter

By Richard Kithil, President & CEO, NLSI

Background: In May 2003, NLSI co-authored Lightning and Aquatics Safety: A Cautionary Perspective for Indoor Pools. Before and since that time, many national aquatics groups have followed our recommendations. We suggest, in brief, that safety is the prevailing directive and that pool activities should be suspended at the first signs of thunder or lightning. A contrary opinion has appeared in Aquatics Resources eSplash newsletter dated 17 Nov. 2008. The purpose of our reply is to discuss the topic with regard to comments made by the authors of the above newsletter article.

It is correct that national statistics omit reports of deaths from lightning to people in indoor pools. That’s good news. However, there are many reports of lightning deaths in bathtubs as well as reports of injuries to people indoors in direct and indirect contact with water (kitchen sink, laundry room, bathroom, etc.). The agencies that cause these incidents can be traced to energized circuits. This means copper water pipes, electrical service lines, and other conductors that carry some component of lightning’s energy. It seems reasonable to NLSI that the potential for lightning incidents to people in indoor pools does exist.

The eSpalsh article contains several errors that should be discussed. The National Electrical Code (NEC) does NOT refer in any way to pool closures or any type of enforcement or any legal consequences. The presence of a lightning protection system does not bring with it any certainty of immunity from death, injury, fire, or other consequences. People in contact with, or adjacent to, conductive circuits may become lightning victims regardless of grounding, bonding, shielding, surge protection, air terminals, etc. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) does not refer to pools specifically. However, it does contain the warning: “avoid using the shower or plumbing facilities and contact with electrical appliances during thunderstorms.”

The bottom line: liability issues. There are nationally published recommendations for evacuating pools during thunderstorms. Those guidelines are based upon very conservative "safety first" principles. These admonitions do not have the force of law. However, they address a well-known duty-to-warn concept. Failure to provide safe activities and failure to comply with recognized national safety measures may bring with it liability issues. The choice is yours.


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